Pieter Thijs – Time and the Three Fates – ca. 1665
In ancient Greek religion and mythology, the Moirai (Ancient Greek: Μοῖραι, “lots, destinies, apportioners”), often known in English as the Fates (Latin: Fata), Moirae or Mœræ (obsolete), were the white-robed incarnations of destiny; their Roman equivalent was the Parcae (euphemistically the “sparing ones”), and there are other equivalents in cultures that descend from the Proto-Indo-European culture. Their number became fixed at three: Clotho (“spinner”), Lachesis (“allotter”) and Atropos (“the unturnable”, a metaphor for death).
They controlled the mother thread of life of every mortal from birth to death. They were independent, at the helm of necessity, directed fate, and watched that the fate assigned to every being by eternal laws might take its course without obstruction. Both gods and men had to submit to them, although Zeus’s relationship with them is a matter of debate: some sources say he can command them (as Zeus Moiragetes “leader of the Fates”), while others suggest he was also bound to the Moirai’s dictates.
In the Homeric poems Moira or Aisa are related to the limit and end of life, and Zeus appears as the guider of destiny. In the Theogony of Hesiod, the three Moirai are personified, daughters of Nyx and are acting over the gods. Later they are daughters of Zeus and Themis, who was the embodiment of divine order and law. In Plato’s Republic the Three Fates are daughters of Ananke (necessity).
It seems that Moira is related with Tekmor (“proof, ordinance”) and with Ananke (“destiny, necessity”), who were primeval goddesses in mythical cosmogonies. The ancient Greek writers might call this power Moira or Ananke, and even the gods could not alter what was ordained:
To the Moirai (Moirae, Fates) the might of Zeus must bow; and by the Immortals’ purpose all these things had come to pass, or by the Moirai’s ordinance.
The concept of a universal principle of natural order and balance has been compared to similar concepts in other cultures like the Vedic Ṛta, the Avestan Asha (Arta) and the Egyptian Maat.
In earliest Greek philosophy, the cosmogony of Anaximander is based on these mythical beliefs. The goddess Dike (“justice, divine retribution”), keeps the order and sets a limit to any actions.
Pieter Thijs, Peter Thijs or Pieter Thys (Antwerp, 1624 – Antwerp, 1677) was a Flemish painter of portraits as well as religious and history paintings. He was a very successful artist who worked for the courts in Brussels and The Hague as well as for many religious institutions. His work was close to the courtly and elegant style of Anthony van Dyck and his followers.
Pieter Thijs produced allegorical and mythological compositions for the courts of the Southern Netherlands and the Dutch Republic as well as the local churches and monasteries. He was also in demand as a portrait painter by the court and the local bourgeoisie.
In the past his reputation suffered because of misattributions of his work. As his style was close to that of van Dyck and the followers of van Dyck, Thijs works have often been attributed to van Dyck and artists working in the van Dyckian idiom such as Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert, Jan Boeckhorst and Erasmus Quellinus the Younger. With the rediscovery of the artist, works have been re-attributed to Pieter Thijs. As the styles of Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert and Thijs are very close, there are still disagreements about the attributions of some works to either artist. The main distinguishing features between the styles of the two artists is that Willeboirts Bosschaerts’ work uses a looser brushwork and displays a distinctive humanity and sensuality in the figures, especially the female figures. Thijs, on the other hand, applied the paint more tightly and thickly, and his figures express their emotions with more decorum and contained theatricality.
The influence of van Dyck on Thijs’ style is due to his direct working relationship with van Dyck. Other possible influences are the works of slightly senior painters such as Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert and Gonzales Coques who were both early followers of van Dyck as well as Thijs’ predecessors at the courts of Brussels and The Hague. The patrons at these courts showed a preference for van Dyck’s refined courtly style.
He showed himself to be an eclectic painter who did not strive for originality but adapted and borrowed from the styles of other artists where he felt the commission demanded it.