Volume I: Violence Between Text and Art 

Gods Behaving Badly
In this volume of "Behaving Badly" we explore the various ways in which gods in ancient myth exact their will in the terrestrial sphere. Greek mythology is comprised of a body of texts, also adopted and augmented by the Romans, that explore the origins and nature of the world, as well as the virtues and vices of humans, gods and heroes. The themes of mythology thus afford both ancient writers and contemporary society the opportunity to contemplate the often capricious nature of life, and our place within the cosmos. Artists exhibited in this series, such as Titian, Luca Giordano and Jusepe de Ribera offer insightful meditations into the meanings of these ancient texts in visual form. Please proceed with humor. 
An Unwelcomed Advance
Lacking a male heir, King Acrisius consulted the Oracle of Delphi to see if his fortunes would change. The Oracle declared that he would not have an heir, but his daughter, Danae, would. The Oracle told Acrisius that Danae's son would kill him. Acrisius therefore locked Danae in a bronze tower to keep her from conceiving a child. 

Zeus, the king of the gods, however, desired Danae and transformed himself into a golden rain.

The golden rain, depicted by Titian in the form of gold coins, falls near the lap of Danae, thus impregnating her. Furious, King Acrisius cast Danae and her new son Perseus into the sea within a wooden chest.

How would you describe Danae's reaction? Despite her father's treachery and Zeus' unwanted advance, Danae and her son survive to see another day.

Perseus and Medusa
As the love child of Zeus and Danae, Perseus grew into quite the demigod. Danae and her infant son Perseus arrived ashore to the island of Seriphos, where Dictys - the brother of King Polydectes - raised Perseus to manhood. King Polydectes desired Danae, but she rebuffed his advances. The King agreed to not marry Danae only if her son Perseus brought him the head of the Gorgon Medusa.

Sporting the shield of Athena and the winged sandals of Hermes, Perseus evades Medusa's gaze - which would turn him to stone - and strikes off Medusa's head.

With a clever slight of hand, Perseus looks at Medusa through her reflection upon Athena's shield.

Poor Medusa, no more turning people to stone with her deadly gaze.

Apollo and Marsyas
Zeus was certainly not the only god to behave badly. Here, Ribera depicts Marsyas as a satyr - a hybrid creature who is part man and part goat (see his ears and hooves?). On a fool's errand, Marsyas challenged the god Apollo to a musical contest. Marsyas played his flute, and Apollo played his lyre. The Muses judged the contest, and declared Apollo the victor. As a punishment for his hubris, Apollo flayed Marsyas alive. 

In the right corner is Marsyas' flute hanging from the tree...

...and in the left corner we see Apollo's stringed instrument. Ribera chose to represent the instrument as a violin instead of a lyre.

With god-like poise, Apollo begins to peel back the flayed skin of Marsyas' leg. The knife used to make the incision is depicted above.

Marsyas' satyr friends look on in horror.

Marsyas' pain registers clearly upon his face. The moral of the story is...be humble and don't challenge a god to a duel!

Credits: Story

Curated by James P. Anno

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.