A Tragic Love - Deonslow Cole

This gallery includes pieces of work that depict various Greek/Roman mythological tragic love stories. These stories are shown through paintings, sculptures and other forms of work. Many include representations of Greek/Roman Gods, Demigods and other Mythological beings.

Hero Mourning the Dead Leander, Domenico Fetti, 1621/1622, From the collection of: Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
This work tells the story of two secret lovers Leander and Hero. Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite, was to remain a virgin & never marry. Living on opposite sides of the Hellespont, Leander would swim at night to his love guided by a lamp in her tower. One night a storm blew out the lamp leaving Leander to lose his way & drown. Seeing his dead body on the shore the next day, Hero threw herself from the tower to be with her love. The contrast of three focal points help to illustrate the story. The foremost of the lightly covered women holding the dull lifeless body of Leander, the second is the scene of Hero throwing herself from her towner and the last is what seems to be Aphrodite going back out to sea. Each scene has its own movement as Leander's body is being pulled from shore the viewer can see a man calling for help while cupid flies above weeping, Hero's falling body onto the rocks below and the leaving of Aphrodite.
Orpheus [obverse], Marie-Alexandre-Lucien Coudray, c. 1893, From the collection of: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
This medal focuses on one of Jason's Argonauts, Orpheus. Best known as one of the greatest musicians, he lost his wife, Eurydice, to a snake bite as she ran from one of Apollo's son. Distraught with his loss, Orpheus traveled to the underworld using his musical skills to persuade Hades to allow him to take his wife back home. Hades agreed under the condition that Orpheus look back as he left. Worried that she wouldn't be behind him, Orpheus looked back and she disappeared back into the underworld losing her forever. Orpheus wondered in aimless sorrow playing his lute until he was eventually murdered by drunken women. The texture of the medal brings forth the sadness that that is felt by Orpheus. The depth of sorrow is expressed in the eyes, the frown upon his face and the closeness of the lute to his body. The emphasis is place on his face as the viewer can see that this is someone who is in some form of pain that is deep rooted.
Black-figured amphora (wine-jar) signed by Exekias as potter and attributed to him as painter, -530/-525, From the collection of: British Museum
Seen upon this vase is the scene of Penthesilea and Achilles. Both great warriors of the infamous Trojan War, met on the battlefield. As they fight, Achilles is amazed by Penthesila's beauty and bravery, but eventually kills her. The two gaze upon each other falling in love, as she dies. The artist uses space to tell the story of the two warriors in love as the tan color is the negative space and the black white are positive. The black areas of the outline the body and strength of Achilles while the white of Penthesila represent her softness as a woman. Most vases have more than one register to tell their story, but this one uses only one to keep the focus on the ending duel of the two warriors.
Echo and Narcissus, John William Waterhouse, 1903, From the collection of: Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
The artist has portrayed the story of Echo and Narcissus. Echo, a nymph, has been cursed by Juno(the Roman version of Hera) to not speak first and only to reply with the last word spoken outloud. Narcissus was loved by many nymphs but he only loved himself. While in the woods Narcissus heard someone & cried "Come" and a voice replied "Come" leading him to a pool. After searching Narcissus cried out for the whomever to join him, ecstatic Echo jumped into his arms only to be refused. She ran to the mountains hurt where she rescinded into the mountain leaving only her voice as a reply when people speak. Meanwhile, Narcissus fell in love with his reflection in the pool never leaving, despite the pleads of the nymphs, and died. The artist used texture to give a 3D feel to work. It looks as though the viewer can grab the flowers in front of Echo as she clings to the tree. Narcissus' body is lifelike as he leans over the pool reaching out to touch his reflection. The details of the background forest seem to fade but are vividly displayed to the viewer.
The abduction of Proserpina by Pluto, John Cheere, 1756 -, From the collection of: National Palace of Queluz
This statue reflects the story of the kidnapping of Persephone (Roman version calls her Proserpina) by the lord of the underworld Hades (Roman version he is called Pluto). Persephone is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, the God of harvest and crops. While Persephone was out walking the lonely Hades rose from the underworld to take her as his. Demeter searched the earth looking for her to find out from the Sun where she was and who took her. Demeter & Zeus approached Hades requesting Persephones's return but Hades refused. The later cam to a compromise where Persephone would spend half the year with Hades and the rest with Demeter. During the time Persephone is with Hades, Demeter's sadness doesn't allow for crops to grow which represents the seasons of Fall and Winter. The dynamic shape of the statue bring life to the story. The twisted body of Persephone as she is reaching back trying to escape. Hades look of determination as he steps over a woman trying to stop him. The unity in this piece is magnificent as each piece of the statue work together harmoniously. It all tells a story of fright, fear, strength and carelessness.
Pyramus and Thisbe, Lucas van Leyden, 1514, From the collection of: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Here is a piece of work that could represent the first version of Romeo and Juliet. The families of Pyramus and Thisbe hated each other, but the two fell hopelessly in love with each other. At night the two would meet, but one particular night while waiting Thisbe saw a lioness, who just had a kill, approaching and ran leaving her scarf behind. Pyramus later arrived to see the lioness chewing the scarf in its bloody mouth and thought that it killed Thisbe. Grief stricken Pyramus stabbed himself as he couldn't live without his love. Thisbe soon returned to see Pyramus' body and she too stabbed herself as she couldn't live without her love. The texture of this piece stands out as the story of the two lovers are portrayed. Focusing of the two lovers the viewer can see how Pyramus lies on the ground covering his wound, while Thisbe plunges the dagger into herself. Seen in the distance left is the lioness chewing on the scarf of Thisbe.
Hydria: Hephaestus’ Return to Mount Olympus, unknown, 535 BC - 515 BC, From the collection of: Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Painted on the vase's first register is the return of Hephaestus to Mount Olympus. He was the son of Hera, queen of the Gods. Tired of the many exploits Zeus had with mortal women, Hera conceived Hephaestus with a mortal herself. Thinking that she would have a demigod herself, Hephaestus was born with some disfigurements. Disgusted with the way her child looked Hera threw him to earth. Hephaestus grew to be a great blacksmith and created many exotic pieces. Hera saw the pieces and then claimed Hephaestus as her son and requested he come back to Olympus. Hephaestus refused and was tricked by drinking wine from the God Dionysus, which made him drunk and he agreed to go. Upon his return he was welcomed as one of the Gods. The colors on the vase draw attention to the what is happening. As the view looks at the register, they can see Dionysus offering the wine to Hephaestus. Hephaestus riding a donkey on his way to Mount Olympus. Upon closer view, the lame foot of Hephaestus can be seen. The other figures behind Hephaestus celebrate his return.
The Deserted Ariadne, Josef Mařatka, 1903, From the collection of: Olomouc Museum of Art
Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos of Crete. Minos set forth to have seven young men and seven young women form Athens sacrificed to the Minotaur. Ariadne fell in love with Theseus, one of the young men to be sacrificed. To save the one she loved, Ariadne gave him a ball of golden thread that he used to find his way out of the Minotaur's labyrinth. Ariadne ran away to Athens with Theseus upon his escape. On the way there Theseus left her deserted on an island. The lines of this figurine sets the tone for the story of Ariadne. The curves of the humped over body Ariadne details her pain and anguish as she has been left deserted by the man she loved. The use of space helps define what Ariadne is feeling as the viewer can see her body clinging to a rock. The texture of the figurine is detailed through the careful creation of the rock to the fine detail of Ariadne's ribs, strained muscles in her arms and legs and hair.
Jupiter and Semele, Francesco Xanto Avelli, 1529, From the collection of: Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest
Jupiter (the Roman name for Zeus) had many affairs with mortal women. Hera despised all of Zeus' infidelity, which led her on an act of revenge. She disguised herself and visited one of Zeus' lovers, Semele. Hera led Semele to doubt Zeus' immortality claims and convinced her to ask Zeus to reveal himself to her. When Zeus arrived, Semele persuaded Zeus to show his divine form. Zeus did and Semele was instantly burned to death by the heat from his thunderbolts. The colors used in the piece work together harmoniously. The light of Zeus is shown on Semele's outstretched body as she tries to shield herself. Zeus' power is so bright that even the statues of Semele's bed are covering themselves. The contrast of the colors give hierarchy. The focus is on the two lovers as they are lightly colored as the background is in dark colors. The viewer is drawn in to Zeus and an the concern on his face. As he looks down the viewer also moves to see what he sees, Semele laying helpless on her bed.
(Front), From the collection of: The J. Paul Getty Museum
No other story is more famous than that of Helen of Troy. Paris, son of King Priam, was promised the most beautiful woman on earth after choosing Aphrodite as the fairest between Hera, Athena and herself. Helen of Troy was the most desired and beautiful, when Paris saw her on his visit to Spartan the two had an attraction and he took Helen back to Troy. Her abduction leads to the 10 year Trojan War. Paris is ultimately killed, leaving Helen to return to Spartan. The statues space and shape convey the story of Helen being taken to Troy. The angled bodies of the Helen as she is thrusted over the side of Paris to be carried away aligned with the body of Paris as he quickly moves, knocking over one of Helens caregivers in order to escape with what has been promised to him. The dynamic shape of the figure provokes movement of all three characters in the statue. The texture of the statue details the expression of Helen's face, her hair and contorted body. The hair of Paris, the strain in his arm as well as the strain in the arms of the caregiver as she tries to stop the abduction can all be seen.
Credits: All media
This user gallery has been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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