6 Paintings Inspired By Metamorphoses Book 1
I wish I had read Ovid’s Metamorphoses before I went to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. My knowledge of biblical and classical literature is poor to say the least, and those stories that have entered my consciousness through popular culture have been diminished and adulterated. Such texts, including Metamorphoses, were of great importance to many artists, their patrons and their audiences, so how can I possibly absorb the full meaning of their artwork if I’m not familiar with, for instance, Daphne and her celestial tormentor Apollo? I am reading the 1632 edition of George Sandys’s English translation, which is recommended by Bloom in The Western Canon, and is available for free online at the University of Virginia’s E-Text Centre. Below are five of my favourite paintings depicting stories from Book 1, in no particular order.
Apollo and Daphne John Waterhouse
May earth, for too well pleasing; me deuour:
Or, by transforming, O destroy this shape,
That thus betrays me to vundoing rape.
Forth-with, a numnesse all her lims possest;
And slender filmes her softer sides inuest.
Apollo and Daphne Antonio del Pollaiuolo
Haire into leaues, her Arms to branches grow:
And late swift feet, now rootes, are lesse than slow.
Pan and Syrinx Peter Paul Rubens
Pan, when he thought he had his Syrinx claspt
Betweene his Arms, Reeds for her body graspt.
He sighs: they stir’d therewith, report againe,
A mournefull sound like one that did complaine.
Rapt with the Musick; Yet , O sweet (said he)
Together euer thus converse will we.
Then, of vnequall wax-ioyn’d Reeds he fram’d
This seuen-fold Pipe: of her ’twas Syrinx nam’d.
Jupiter and Io Antonio Allegri da Correggio
He in the Aire a sable clou’d displai’d,
Caught, and deuirginat’s the strugling Maid.
Mean-while, with wonder Iuno doth suruay,
Those duskie Clouds, that made a night of Day.
Apollo and Daphne Théodore Chassériau
Still Phoebus loves. He handles the new Plant;
And feeles her Heart within the Barks to pant.
Imbrac’t the Bole, as he would her have done;
And kisst the boughs: the boughs his kisses shun.
Pauline as Daphne Fleeing from Apollo Robert Lefèvre
Stay Nymph, I pray thee stay; I am no Foe:
So Lambs from Wolues, Harts fly from Lyons so;
So from the Eagle springs the trembling Doue.
They, from their deaths: but my pursuite is Loue.