Kelvin Rosado: The Colors of  Myth

As we all know, history can be either intriguing or simply uninteresting to some. It is a divisive topic, as really it is up to the person to decide how interesting they may find the subject. However, most agree that there is one aspect to it that is possibly the biggest draw to learning from past cultures, that factor being mythology. When it comes to mythology, by clear association one can also think of art, whether it’s from the Greek’s paintings or the sculptures of Roman gods.  Which is why I chose this as a theme, by focusing on their paintings I can more clearly analyze what made them so distinct from the rest, and in this case I decided on color as a major focus in the following collection.

Thisi artwork depicts Andromeda, daughter of Aethiopian king Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia. Although, Andromeda herself is better known as the wife of Perseus. The artwork in question here clearly reflects the theme of this collection. Even though it doesn’t have bright and vibrant colors, it uses more natural ones to depict its background, and give a sense of realism to Andromeda herself with the light colors for her skin tone. But more effectively is the contrast created by the light colors and darks in the background itself.
After choosing Andromeda, it made sense that the following would involve her husband as well. In this piece, the wedding between Perseus and Andromeda is shown being interrupted by her uncle Phineus, whom she was initially promised to. Perseus holds up the head of Medusa, ready to turn the fiend to stone. The theme of color still persists here, although it is not the only one present. The red cloth on Perseus makes him further stand out as the center of the piece, and the darker colors for the shadow cast on Phineus makes him seem a bit more ominous in comparison to Perseus’ brighter lighting, signaling out Phineus moral stance as the more obvious bad guy. As an added visual element, there is a sense of movement in the people reaching out to grab the hero, as well as the flow of his garbs in the wind.
Although the title suggests Mars, he is the Roman equivalent to Ares, the Greek God of War. In this painting, it is simple to see what is going on, as it depicts the more righteous Goddess of Wisdom Athena opposing her more bloodthirsty brother. Seen as the more divine and protective of the too, it makes sense to portray her defending the women as she gets her sibling to back off. The color use here shows a blue cloth on Athena, which caters to showing her more passive and gentle demeanor while Mars/Ares has a much blacker set of armor, showing he is ready for a fight, rather than settle this with words. Another way the colors come into play, is the blinding white light behind Athena, in contrast with the darker and more ominous sky behind Ares.
This one is a much simpler piece, clearly depicting an old and worn temple, which is actually rather small in size. The temple belongs to Nike, Greek Goddess of Victory and shows a few of her followers paying visit to her temple. The use of warm colors in this particular piece makes it easy to see that the time of day maybe somewhere around the afternoon. As the sunlight seem to be coming from the west, the colors also help us tell the followers apart, and even adds green for the grass so it doesn’t feel so monotone.
The following artwork shows us one of the more popular figures in Greek Mythology, Medusa the Queen of Gorgons. Her famous hair made out of snakes and usual depiction of her being beheaded comes into play here along with her face of horror as Perseus had struck her down. The colors in this piece help push the horror and almost surreal elements of the figure in question, the darker shades on her face help push the fact that she was terrified, because having the whole face perfectly illuminated would not have had the same effect. That, along with the red of her blood dripping and oozing down from her disembodied head.
This image shows us a notable interpretation of Vulcan’s forge. Vulcan is the Roman equivalent of Hephaestus, blacksmith of the gods. It also presents us with Venus, Roman equivalent of Aphrodite, Goddess of love and beauty. The reason for this is most likely because in their mythology they were married, although it was of little importance to Aphrodite at times, this painting feels different in that regard as she is smiling down at her husband in what seems to be a surprise visit judging from Hephaestus’ reaction. The colors here help accentuate their status as gods, with robes that seem to push them away from the grim colored background as well as the golden artifact Hephaestus holds.
This is a much darker piece, which depicts Icarus, the man with wings, after having tried to fly too close to the sun. The women try to care for him despite his insinuated death, and is much more tragic as you see his treasured wings burnt. The piece is almost monotone, as it largely uses various tones of a certain color, giving more warmth to the scene and making the impact of the imagery much more powerful through stale colors.
Going back to the theme of Perseus and Andromeda, this work depicts the daring rescue that brought them together. As the result of her mother’s hubris, Andromeda ends up being the sacrifice to Poseidon’s sea creature Cetus, but not before Perseus rushes in to save her. I am particularly fond of the color use in this scene, as it shows the darker, more threatening nature of the creature though its coloring, the grey scales and dark shadow cast by its wing over Andromeda, the warm colors emanating from his mouth indicating fire. The bright and warm aura that surrounds Perseus as he is about to swoop in are all effects that play strongly thanks to their color.
Once more is the famous illustration of the birth of Venus, or Aphrodite in Greek Mythology. The artwork shows us her rise from the ocean inside of a sea shell just as in her myth of creation. The colors here seem to be a combination of warm and cool colors, making the sea seem calming in nature, while the warmer colors as as always, generally more focused on the people themselves.
The final piece in this collection is the depiction of the legendary centaur Chiron, trainer of heroes, instructing what seems to be a younger Achilles. The color use here is vast and varied, there’s a larger abundance of cool colors than warm colors in the environment, which makes for a more relaxed illustration of a man and teacher.
Credits: All media
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