Ovid in the Prado Museum-Madrid (Ovid V)
The most famous Latin poets of the three of the time of Augustus, Virgil, Horace and Ovid, undoubtedly the most influential of them all in Western culture has been Ovid, although not the best valued by literary criticism. The influence of Ovid has been felt since antiquity itself, during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to the present day in all arts, in literature of course, but also especially in painting and even in music. This is a subject very attended by the scholars and to which perhaps I should on my part dedicate some ample comment at some time. Something of this I have said in some of the articles that I have published in the thread of the celebration of the bimillenary of the poet’s death.
I will briefly refer, however, to his influence on the painting of the Prado Museum, Museo del Prado in Madrid. Ovid is present in all the important museums of the world: Louvre Museum of Paris and the National Gallery of London and the Alte Pinakothek of Munich and the Hermitage of St. Petersburg, etc. etc., through its influence on painters, especially of the Renaissance and Baroque (Rubens, Velázquez, Tiziano ...) but also contemporaries, as Picasso himself.
The influence is mostly that of his book of mythology The Metamorphosis or transformation of some beings into others, usually humans or gods in animals, trees or stars. The Metamorphosis are a true treatise on mythology.
I will refer exclusively and briefly to his presence at the Prado Museum, Museo del Prado, in Madrid. In fact it is absolutely advisable to anyone who visits this important museum, one of the most important Pinacothecas, "art galleries", in the world, to do so after a previous reading of the work of Ovid, the Metamorphosis, or some of the guides and publications that exist on the subject, or a visit to the museum's own website.
Note: the word "pinacotheca" has come to us through the Latin "pinacotheca, but in fact it is from Greek origin: πινακοθήκη, pinakotheke, word itself composed of πινακος, pinakos, genitive of πίναξ, pinax, meaning " picture" and θήκη, theke," box, wardrobe, shelf, and by extension collection of things and objects deposited therein.
The consultation to this link at the time of the publication of this article offers the immediate reference of 158 works, some of them of the most famous of which the Museum houses. It is true that not all of them are indebted exclusively to Ovid, but the vast majority.
I will confine myself to presenting only three of the corresponding Ovid texts and to cite some of the others to encourage the reader to search for the correspondences of himself, an experience that can be extended to any other museum, such as the Louvre Museum or the National Gallery of London) or the Alte Pinakothek of Munich or the Hermitage of St. Petersburg, etc. etc.
The reader can find ample information in numerous books and published articles on this, of general form in the work of Amalia Fernández: Diosesy mitos. Una aproximación literaria a la pintura mitológica del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1998) (Gods and myths. A literary approach to the mythological painting of the Museo del Prado); Or Rosa López Torrijos: Mitología e Historia en las obras maestras del Prado, Madrid, 1998 (Mythology and History in the masterpieces of the Prado,) or more concretely in Mª. Cruz García Fuentes: Mitos de las Metamorfosis de Ovidio en la Iconografía del Museo del Prado, Madrid, Edit. C. E. R. S. A., 2013. ( Myths of the Metamorphoses of Ovid in the Iconography of the Prado Museum).
I will limit myself to relate, as I said, by way of example, three or four great works of the Museum, of the hundred and fifty exposed, with the corresponding text of the Metamorphoses of Ovid. I hope that this is enough incentive for the reader to locate and atmosphere the visit to the Museum with the reading of Ovid.
The painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) is widely represented in the Museo del Prado with paintings of mythological subject, whose commission received from King Felipe IV to decorate the "Torre de la parada” (Tower of the Parada). Most of the mythological scenes of the passions of the gods were inspired by Ovid's description in the Metamorphoses.
Deucalión and Pyrrha. (1636-1637. Oil on wood, 26.4 x 41.7 cm.)
In Greco-Roman mythology there is also a deluge with which Jupiter punishes the evil of the human race, which must perish. Only Deucalion, son of Prometheus, and his wife Pyrrha are saved from punishment in their ark, which was stranded on Mount Parnassus in the Greek Peloponnese. This pair will give rise to a new race of men.
Although Rubens's picture refers only to the creation of the new men, I will return to the story since the appearance of Deucalion in the poem of Ovid.
Ovid tells us the episode of the deluge and the survival of Deucalion and Pyrrh a in Metamorphosis, I, 309-430:
Now hills, and vales no more distinction know;
And levell'd Nature lies oppress'd below.
The most of mortals perish in the flood:
The small remainder dies for want of food.
A mountain of stupendous height there stands
Betwixt th' Athenian and Boeotian lands,
The bound of fruitful fields, while fields they were,
But then a field of waters did appear:
Parnassus is its name; whose forky rise
Mounts thro' the clouds, and mates the lofty skies.
High on the summit of this dubious cliff,
Deucalion wafting, moor'd his little skiff.
He with his wife were only left behind
Of perish'd Man; they two were human kind.
The mountain nymphs, and Themis they adore,
And from her oracles relief implore.
The most upright of mortal men was he;
The most sincere, and holy woman, she.
When Jupiter, surveying Earth from high,
Beheld it in a lake of water lie,
That where so many millions lately liv'd,
But two, the best of either sex, surviv'd;
He loos'd the northern wind; fierce Boreas flies
To puff away the clouds, and purge the skies:
Serenely, while he blows, the vapours driv'n,
Discover Heav'n to Earth, and Earth to Heav'n.
The billows fall, while Neptune lays his mace
On the rough sea, and smooths its furrow'd face.
Already Triton, at his call, appears
Above the waves; a Tyrian robe he wears;
And in his hand a crooked trumpet bears.
The soveraign bids him peaceful sounds inspire,
And give the waves the signal to retire.
His writhen shell he takes; whose narrow vent
Grows by degrees into a large extent,
Then gives it breath; the blast with doubling sound,
Runs the wide circuit of the world around:
The sun first heard it, in his early east,
And met the rattling ecchos in the west.
The waters, listning to the trumpet's roar,
Obey the summons, and forsake the shore.
A thin circumference of land appears;
And Earth, but not at once, her visage rears,
And peeps upon the seas from upper grounds;
The streams, but just contain'd within their bounds,
By slow degrees into their channels crawl;
And Earth increases, as the waters fall.
In longer time the tops of trees appear,
Which mud on their dishonour'd branches bear.
At length the world was all restor'd to view;
But desolate, and of a sickly hue:
Nature beheld her self, and stood aghast,
A dismal desart, and a silent waste.
Which when Deucalion, with a piteous look
Beheld, he wept, and thus to Pyrrha spoke:
Oh wife, oh sister, oh of all thy kind
The best, and only creature left behind,
By kindred, love, and now by dangers joyn'd;
Of multitudes, who breath'd the common air,
We two remain; a species in a pair:
The rest the seas have swallow'd; nor have we
Ev'n of this wretched life a certainty.
The clouds are still above; and, while I speak,
A second deluge o'er our heads may break.
Shou'd I be snatcht from hence, and thou remain,
Without relief, or partner of thy pain,
How cou'dst thou such a wretched life sustain?
Shou'd I be left, and thou be lost, the sea
That bury'd her I lov'd, shou'd bury me.
Oh cou'd our father his old arts inspire,
And make me heir of his informing fire,
That so I might abolisht Man retrieve,
And perisht people in new souls might live.
But Heav'n is pleas'd, nor ought we to complain,
That we, th' examples of mankind, remain.
He said; the careful couple joyn their tears:
And then invoke the Gods, with pious prayers.
Thus, in devotion having eas'd their grief,
From sacred oracles they seek relief;
And to Cephysus' brook their way pursue:
The stream was troubled, but the ford they knew;
With living waters, in the fountain bred,
They sprinkle first their garments, and their head,
Then took the way, which to the temple led.
The roofs were all defil'd with moss, and mire,
The desart altars void of solemn fire.
Before the gradual, prostrate they ador'd;
The pavement kiss'd; and thus the saint implor'd.
O righteous Themis, if the Pow'rs above
By pray'rs are bent to pity, and to love;
If humane miseries can move their mind;
If yet they can forgive, and yet be kind;
Tell how we may restore, by second birth,
Mankind, and people desolated Earth.
Then thus the gracious Goddess, nodding, said;
Depart, and with your vestments veil your head:
And stooping lowly down, with losen'd zones,
Throw each behind your backs, your mighty mother's bones.
Amaz'd the pair, and mute with wonder stand,
'Till Pyrrha first refus'd the dire command.
Forbid it Heav'n, said she, that I shou'd tear
Those holy reliques from the sepulcher.
They ponder'd the mysterious words again,
For some new sense; and long they sought in vain:
At length Deucalion clear'd his cloudy brow,
And said, the dark Aenigma will allow
A meaning, which, if well I understand,
From sacrilege will free the God's command:
This Earth our mighty mother is, the stones
In her capacious body, are her bones:
These we must cast behind. With hope, and fear,
The woman did the new solution hear:
The man diffides in his own augury,
And doubts the Gods; yet both resolve to try.
Descending from the mount, they first unbind
Their vests, and veil'd, they cast the stones behind:
The stones (a miracle to mortal view,
But long tradition makes it pass for true)
Did first the rigour of their kind expel,
And suppled into softness, as they fell;
Then swell'd, and swelling, by degrees grew warm;
And took the rudiments of human form.
Imperfect shapes: in marble such are seen,
When the rude chizzel does the man begin;
While yet the roughness of the stone remains,
Without the rising muscles, and the veins.
The sappy parts, and next resembling juice,
Were turn'd to moisture, for the body's use:
Supplying humours, blood, and nourishment;
The rest, too solid to receive a bent,
Converts to bones; and what was once a vein,
Its former name and Nature did retain.
By help of pow'r divine, in little space,
What the man threw, assum'd a manly face;
And what the wife, renew'd the female race.
Hence we derive our nature; born to bear
Laborious life; and harden'd into care.
The rest of animals, from teeming Earth
Produc'd, in various forms receiv'd their birth.
The native moisture, in its close retreat,
Digested by the sun's aetherial heat,
As in a kindly womb, began to breed:
Then swell'd, and quicken'd by the vital seed.
And some in less, and some in longer space,
Were ripen'd into form, and took a sev'ral face.
Thus when the Nile from Pharian fields is fled,
And seeks, with ebbing tides, his ancient bed,
The fat manure with heav'nly fire is warm'd;
And crusted creatures, as in wombs, are form'd;
These, when they turn the glebe, the peasants find;
Some rude, and yet unfinish'd in their kind:
Short of their limbs, a lame imperfect birth:
One half alive; and one of lifeless earth.
(Translated by Sir Samuel Garth, John Dryden, et al (1717))
Note: because some texts are somewhat extensive, I will reproduce the Latin texts at the end of the article.
The Rape of Europa
According to the mythical account, Europa was daughter of Agenor, the king of Tiro; The god Zeus fell in love with her, who ordered Hermes to bring the king's cows to the river; Zeus was transformed into a white bull to gain the confidence of Europa, that was mounted in its loins; At that moment the bull started speeding, entered the Mediterranean Sea and reached Crete. There the god appeared in his divinity and seduced the young woman.
This is one of the myths most represented since ancient times; we have representations since the 6th century BC. Tiziano painted between 1559 and 1562 an oil on this myth that is exposed in the Museum of the Prado. Peter Paul Rubens copied this painting in 1628-1629. Then the same Rubens repeated the theme again for the “Torre de la Parada”,Tower of the Parade, but in a very different way (the sketch is preserved in the same museum) and in turn shortly afterwards Jan Erasmus Quelinus painted on this sketch the painting which is also preserved in the Prado Museum.
Peter Paul Rubens. (Copy of Tiziano, Vecellio di Gregorio)
The Rape of Europa. Sketch by Peter Paul Rubens 1636 - 1637. Oil painting, 18.9 x 13.7 cm. And Jan Erasmus Quelinus oil.
Ovid tells us in Metamorphoses II, 833-875:
When now the God his fury had allay'd,
And taken vengeance of the stubborn maid,
From where the bright Athenian turrets rise
He mounts aloft, and re-ascends the skies.
Jove saw him enter the sublime abodes,
And, as he mix'd among the crowd of Gods,
Beckon'd him out, and drew him from the rest,
And in soft whispers thus his will exprest.
"My trusty Hermes, by whose ready aid
Thy sire's commands are through the world convey'd.
Resume thy wings, exert their utmost force,
And to the walls of Sidon speed thy course;
There find a herd of heifers wand'ring o'er
The neighb'ring hill, and drive 'em to the shore."
Thus spoke the God, concealing his intent.
The trusty Hermes, on his message went,
And found the herd of heifers wand'ring o'er
A neighb'ring hill, and drove 'em to the shore;
Where the king's daughter, with a lovely train
Of fellow-nymphs, was sporting on the plain.
The dignity of empire laid aside,
(For love but ill agrees with kingly pride)
The ruler of the skies, the thund'ring God,
Who shakes the world's foundations with a nod,
Among a herd of lowing heifers ran,
Frisk'd in a bull, and bellow'd o'er the plain.
Large rowles of fat about his shoulders clung,
And from his neck the double dewlap hung.
His skin was whiter than the snow that lies
Unsully'd by the breath of southern skies;
Small shining horns on his curl'd forehead stand,
As turn'd and polish'd by the work-man's hand;
His eye-balls rowl'd, not formidably bright,
But gaz'd and languish'd with a gentle light.
His ev'ry look was peaceful, and exprest
The softness of the lover in the beast.
Agenor's royal daughter, as she plaid
Among the fields, the milk-white bull survey'd,
And view'd his spotless body with delight,
And at a distance kept him in her sight.
At length she pluck'd the rising flow'rs, and fed
The gentle beast, and fondly stroak'd his head.
He stood well-pleas'd to touch the charming fair,
But hardly could confine his pleasure there.
And now he wantons o'er the neighb'ring strand,
Now rowls his body on the yellow sand;
And, now perceiving all her fears decay'd,
Comes tossing forward to the royal maid;
Gives her his breast to stroke, and downward turns
His grizly brow, and gently stoops his horns.
In flow'ry wreaths the royal virgin drest
His bending horns, and kindly clapt his breast.
'Till now grown wanton and devoid of fear,
Not knowing that she prest the Thunderer,
She plac'd her self upon his back, and rode
O'er fields and meadows, seated on the God.
He gently march'd along, and by degrees
Left the dry meadow, and approach'd the seas;
Where now he dips his hoofs and wets his thighs,
Now plunges in, and carries off the prize.
The frighted nymph looks backward on the shoar,
And hears the tumbling billows round her roar;
But still she holds him fast: one hand is born
Upon his back; the other grasps a horn:
Her train of ruffling garments flies behind,
Swells in the air, and hovers in the wind.
Through storms and tempests he the virgin bore,
And lands her safe on the Dictean shore;
Where now, in his divinest form array'd,
In his true shape he captivates the maid;
Who gazes on him, and with wond'ring eyes
Beholds the new majestick figure rise,
His glowing features, and celestial light,
And all the God discover'd to her sight.
Translated by Sir Samuel Garth, John Dryden, et al (1717)
Orpheus and Eurydice
The theme of the mythical pair Orpheus and Eurydice is that of the descent into the lower world, to hell, to the world of the dead, to the world where Pluto and Proserpine reign; In Greek this descent is called καταβᾴσεις, katabaseis, or κάθοδοι, kathodoi, and are adjudged to Hercules, Ulysses, Aeneas, Theseus, Pyrithus and especially to Orpheus, who goes in search of his wife, deceased by the venom of a snake, and whose end I do not anticipate for not to diminish the interest in the reading of Ovid's text, which undoubtedly inspired the many pictorial representations of the myth. I present it in a painting also by Peter Paul Rubens.
Orpheus and Eurydice. 1636 - 1638. Oil on canvas, 196.5 x 247.5 cm.
Virgil tells us also the myth in his little Culex and then in his famous Georgics. Ovid had to know this Virgilian version and it is Ovid's account that we find at the beginning of Book X of his Metamorphoses, verses 1 to 77. which I now transcribe:
The Story of Orpheus and Eurydice
Thence, in his saffron robe, for distant Thrace,
Hymen departs, thro' air's unmeasur'd space;
By Orpheus call'd, the nuptial Pow'r attends,
But with ill-omen'd augury descends;
Nor chearful look'd the God, nor prosp'rous spoke,
Nor blaz'd his torch, but wept in hissing smoke.
In vain they whirl it round, in vain they shake,
No rapid motion can its flames awake.
With dread these inauspicious signs were view'd,
And soon a more disastrous end ensu'd;
For as the bride, amid the Naiad train,
Ran joyful, sporting o'er the flow'ry plain,
A venom'd viper bit her as she pass'd;
Instant she fell, and sudden breath'd her last.
When long his loss the Thracian had deplor'd,
Not by superior Pow'rs to be restor'd;
Inflam'd by love, and urg'd by deep despair,
He leaves the realms of light, and upper air;
Daring to tread the dark Tenarian road,
And tempt the shades in their obscure abode;
Thro' gliding spectres of th' interr'd to go,
And phantom people of the world below:
Persephone he seeks, and him who reigns
O'er ghosts, and Hell's uncomfortable plains.
Arriv'd, he, tuning to his voice his strings,
Thus to the king and queen of shadows sings.
Ye Pow'rs, who under Earth your realms extend,
To whom all mortals must one day descend;
If here 'tis granted sacred truth to tell:
I come not curious to explore your Hell;
Nor come to boast (by vain ambition fir'd)
How Cerberus at my approach retir'd.
My wife alone I seek; for her lov'd sake
These terrors I support, this journey take.
She, luckless wandring, or by fate mis-led,
Chanc'd on a lurking viper's crest to tread;
The vengeful beast, enflam'd with fury, starts,
And thro' her heel his deathful venom darts.
Thus was she snatch'd untimely to her tomb;
Her growing years cut short, and springing bloom.
Long I my loss endeavour'd to sustain,
And strongly strove, but strove, alas, in vain:
At length I yielded, won by mighty love;
Well known is that omnipotence above!
But here, I doubt, his unfelt influence fails;
And yet a hope within my heart prevails.
That here, ev'n here, he has been known of old;
At least if truth be by tradition told;
If fame of former rapes belief may find,
You both by love, and love alone, were join'd.
Now, by the horrors which these realms surround;
By the vast chaos of these depths profound;
By the sad silence which eternal reigns
O'er all the waste of these wide-stretching plains;
Let me again Eurydice receive,
Let Fate her quick-spun thread of life re-weave.
All our possessions are but loans from you,
And soon, or late, you must be paid your due;
Hither we haste to human-kind's last seat,
Your endless empire, and our sure retreat.
She too, when ripen'd years she shall attain,
Must, of avoidless right, be yours again:
I but the transient use of that require,
Which soon, too soon, I must resign entire.
But if the destinies refuse my vow,
And no remission of her doom allow;
Know, I'm determin'd to return no more;
So both retain, or both to life restore.
Thus, while the bard melodiously complains,
And to his lyre accords his vocal strains,
The very bloodless shades attention keep,
And silent, seem compassionate to weep;
Ev'n Tantalus his flood unthirsty views,
Nor flies the stream, nor he the stream pursues;
Ixion's wond'ring wheel its whirl suspends,
And the voracious vulture, charm'd, attends;
No more the Belides their toil bemoan,
And Sisiphus reclin'd, sits list'ning on his stone.
Then first ('tis said) by sacred verse subdu'd,
The Furies felt their cheeks with tears bedew'd:
Nor could the rigid king, or queen of Hell,
Th' impulse of pity in their hearts repell.
Now, from a troop of shades that last arriv'd,
Eurydice was call'd, and stood reviv'd:
Slow she advanc'd, and halting seem to feel
The fatal wound, yet painful in her heel.
Thus he obtains the suit so much desir'd,
On strict observance of the terms requir'd:
For if, before he reach the realms of air,
He backward cast his eyes to view the fair,
The forfeit grant, that instant, void is made,
And she for ever left a lifeless shade.
Now thro' the noiseless throng their way they bend,
And both with pain the rugged road ascend;
Dark was the path, and difficult, and steep,
And thick with vapours from the smoaky deep.
They well-nigh now had pass'd the bounds of night,
And just approach'd the margin of the light,
When he, mistrusting lest her steps might stray,
And gladsome of the glympse of dawning day,
His longing eyes, impatient, backward cast
To catch a lover's look, but look'd his last;
For, instant dying, she again descends,
While he to empty air his arms extends.
Again she dy'd, nor yet her lord reprov'd;
What could she say, but that too well he lov'd?
One last farewell she spoke, which scarce he heard;
So soon she drop'd, so sudden disappear'd.
All stunn'd he stood, when thus his wife he view'd
By second Fate, and double death subdu'd:
Not more amazement by that wretch was shown,
Whom Cerberus beholding, turn'd to stone;
Nor Olenus cou'd more astonish'd look,
When on himself Lethaea's fault he took,
His beauteous wife, who too secure had dar'd
Her face to vye with Goddesses compar'd:
Once join'd by love, they stand united still,
Turn'd to contiguous rocks on Ida's hill.
Now to repass the Styx in vain he tries,
Charon averse, his pressing suit denies.
Sev'n days entire, along th' infernal shores,
Disconsolate, the bard Eurydice deplores;
Defil'd with filth his robe, with tears his cheeks,
No sustenance but grief, and cares, he seeks:
Of rigid Fate incessant he complains,
And Hell's inexorable Gods arraigns.
This ended, to high Rhodope he hastes,
And Haemus' mountain, bleak with northern blasts.
(Translated by Sir Samuel Garth, John Dryden, et al (1717))
Atalanta and Hippomenes
Hippomenes and Atalanta 1618 - 1619. Oil on canvas, 206 x 297 cm. Reni, Guido, baroque Bolognese painter
Some time ago I wrote the story of the famous race of Atalanta and Hippomenes in this same blog adapting directly the text of Ovid. The myth tells the story of Atalanta, the daughter of the king of Arcadia, who offered to marry anyone who could beat her in the race; Those who were defeated would be punished with death. The handsome Hippomenes won the race by using the help of the goddess Venus, who suggested a stratagem.
to get a wider commentary on the story, but I nonetheless offer the text, now in view of one of the pictures of the Prado , The one corresponding to Guido Reni.
Whoever wants a full reading of Ovid's text must go to Metamorphoses, VIII, 281 et seq. for the episode of Meleager and the boar hunt of Calidon and to Metamorphosis X, 560-704 for the race with Hippomenes.
When Atalanta was born, her father, the king of Arcadia, enraged because he only wanted a son, abandoned her all godliness lacking at the top of a mountain so that she could die of hunger or devoured by the ferocious beasts. The goddess Artemis, who casually hunted in those places, took pity on the helpless child and sent her a huge bear that, docilely, suckled her with her milk.
Sometime later, and adopted as a daughter by the goddess, she became an accurate huntress and the fastest woman in the world and emulating her patroness she promised that she would never marry either.
When being a famous huntress she received as a trophy the skin of the wild boar ravaging the kingdom of Calydon, whose hunting she had participated in, she reconciled with her father, who again and again insisted her on the need to get married and provide him a future heir for his throne.
The elusive Atalanta consulted the oracle of the gods on her husband and heard these confusing words:
- For anything you need a husband, Atalanta; avoid having a husband. And yet you will not escape from marriage and still alive you will see yourself private of yourself.
Frightened by these words, hard to be understood, she tries to remain single living in the woods, away from her many suitors, who she wants to scare and avoid with a strange proposal:
- Only will possess me the one of you who beats me in a quick race, that one will be my husband. Instead the loser will have to die in punishment for his pretensions. This is my final proposal.
Such is the beauty of the fast Atalanta that many were the unsuspecting youth who dared to compete with the fastest woman in the world, so they lost the race moaning and crying and, with it, they lost the priceless life.
So the young Hippomenes, who had only heard to talk about the beautiful Atalanta, considered excessive the risk he would have to face in order to get her as his wife. But as soon as he saw the splendid body of the young girl who had removed the veil from her face, he fell in love and was immediately seduced.
- I’ll also try my luck; the prize is worth risking death. Gods always help those who are brave- he says inflamed. And madly in love, he continues:
- Beautiful Atalanta, you have beaten easily and effortlessly those poor boys, but now measure yourself with me, that I'm the son of Megareus. If I beat you, it won´t be a dishonorable defeat for you and if you win the race, you would have beaten Hippomenes, the great-grandson of Neptune, god of the waters.
Atalanta raising her beautiful bright eyes up looks at him tenderly.
- Why do you, foolish boy, want to risk your precious life, you who are still a child? You are beautiful and brave, because death does not scare you. So much you love and want me that you are willing to die...? Run away while you can, young handsome boy; many other pretty girls will be pleased and happy to marry you.
And perhaps touched by the sweet feeling of love for the very first time, the inexperienced and unfriendly Atalanta softens her relentless decision and thinks in the inner part of her heart:
- Why has this unhappy boy to die undeservedly as a reward for his love? I wish you, unhappy boy, had not ever seen me. If virginity was not my eternal destiny, you'd be the only one with whom I would share my wedding bed. I wish you, fool, were faster than me.
But Hippomenes already urges the race, but not before entrusting himself to the goddess of love and asking for her divine help:
- You, goddess, who has inspired my blind passion, help my fearlessness.
Venus answered the call wrapped in a white cloud, visible only to Hippomenes, and gave him three yellow apples, as bright as the sun, that he should use in the race in a certain way.
The trumpets gave the departure signal. There the two contenders go, so fast that they seem to fly. Atalanta, refusing to pass and leave the boy behind, places herself on par and, rapt, she stares at his virginal face. Hippomenes then throws one of the three bright apples, which immediately attracts the eye and interest of Atalanta. She restrains then her speed and while she´s collecting the golden fruit from the ground with curiosity, she is passed by Hippomenes. The fast Atalanta recovers the lost space and again she surpasses the young man easily. The young man throws a second fruit and once again entertains the girl, who soon also recovers the lost time. All that remains is the last stretch before the finish line. Now the young man throws strongly the third apple out of the way. Atalanta hesitates, but trusting in her swift feet, she goes to collect the golden fruit which is placed in the distance. But she miscalculated her speed or maybe the burgeoning love restrained her progress, because now she loses the race. Meanwhile Hipomenes has reached the finish line and, this way, he has reached his desired and deserved prize too, the marriage with the young virgin.
Incomprehensibly, the young Hippomenes forgot Venus and failed to thank her help. This way, the goddess felt neglected and offended by it.
One day as they were passing by the temple of Cybele, Mother of gods, they decided to rest because they were very tired due to the long trip. Hipomenes was taken by a sudden and overwhelming desire to lie with Atalanta, sparked no doubt by the vengeful Venus. Right there, in the sacred cave, in front of the divine images, they desecrate the sanctuary with their obscene love.
Mother Cybele punished their lustfulness with her divine severity: long and fierce manes cover their human necks, hands become claws, a long tail emerges from their backs, fierce they raise up their proud lion heads and their jaws make roaring noises which intimidate the rest part of the animals.
Later the goddess takes pity on them, so she ties the pair of lions with strong flex leather straps to her majestic carriage, which they´ll have to pull tireless for the whole eternity.
These are three or four examples of how Ovid can facilitate the visit to Museums such as the Prado and facilitate the understanding of dozens of works exposed there.
Deucalion and Pyrrha, Metamorphosis, I, 309-430:
Obruerat tumulos inmensa licentia ponti,
Pulsabantque noui montana cacumina fluctus.
Maxima pars unda rapitur: quibus unda pepercit,
Illos longa domant inopi ieiunia uictu.
Separat Aonios Oetaeis Phocis ab aruis,
Terra ferax, dum terra fuit, sed tempore in illo
Pars maris et latus subitarum campus aquarum;
Mons ibi uerticibus petit arduus astra duobus,
Nomine Parnasus, superantque cacumina nubes:
Hic ubi Deucalion (nam cetera texerat aequor)
Cum consorte tori parua rate uectus adhaesit,
Corycidas nymphas et numina montis adorant
Fatidicamque Themin, quae tunc oracla tenebat:
Non illo melior quisquam nec amantior aequi
Vir fuit aut illa metuentior ulla deorum.
Iuppiter ut liquidis stagnare paludibus orbem
Et superesse uirum de tot modo milibus unum
Et superesse uidet de tot modo milibus unam,
Innocuos ambo, cultores numinis ambo,
Nubila disiecit nimbisque aquilone remotis
Et caelo terras ostendit et aethera terris.
Nec maris ira manet, positoque tricuspide telo
Mulcet aquas rector pelagi supraque profundum
Exstantem atque umeros innato murice tectum
Caeruleum Tritona uocat conchaeque sonanti
Inspirare iubet fluctusque et flumina signo
Iam reuocare dato: caua bucina sumitur illi,
Tortilis, in latum quae turbine crescit ab imo,
Bucina, quae medio concepit ubi aera ponto,
Litora uoce replet sub utroque iacentia Phoebo.
Tunc quoque, ut ora dei madida rorantia barba
Contigit et cecinit iussos inflata receptus,
Omnibus audita est telluris et aequoris undis
Et, quibus est undis audita, coercuit omnes.
Iam mare litus habet, plenos capit alueus amnes,
Flumina subsidunt collesque exire uidentur,
Surgit humus, crescunt loca decrescentibus undis,
Postque diem longam nudata cacumina siluae
Ostendunt limumque tenent in fronde relictum.
Redditus orbis erat; quem postquam uidit inanem
Et desolatas agere alta silentia terras,
Deucalion lacrimis ita Pyrrham adfatur obortis:
"O soror, o coniunx, o femina sola superstes,
Quam commune mihi genus et patruelis origo,
Deinde torus iunxit, nunc ipsa pericula iungunt,
Terrarum, quascumque uident occasus et ortus,
Nos duo turba sumus: possedit cetera pontus.
Haec quoque adhuc uitae non est fiducia nostrae
Certa satis; terrent etiam nunc nubila mentem.
Quis tibi, si sine me fatis erepta fuisses,
Nunc animus, miseranda, foret? quo sola timorem
Ferre modo posses? quo consolante doleres?
Namque ego, crede mihi, si te quoque pontus haberet,
Te sequerer, coniunx, et me quoque pontus haberet.
O utinam possim populos reparare paternis
Artibus atque animas formatae infundere terrae!
Nunc genus in nobis restat mortale duobus
(Sic uisum superis) hominumque exempla manemus."
Dixerat, et flebant; placuit caeleste precari
Numen et auxilium per sacras quaerere sortes.
Nulla mora est: adeunt pariter Cephisidas undas,
Vt nondum liquidas, sic iam uada nota secantes.
Inde ubi libatos inrorauere liquores
Vestibus et capiti, flectunt uestigia sanctae
Ad delubra deae, quorum fastigia turpi
Pallebant musco stabantque sine ignibus arae.
Vt templi tetigere gradus, procumbit uterque
Pronus humi gelidoque pauens dedit oscula saxo,
Atque ita "si precibus" dixerunt "numina iustis
Victa remollescunt, si flectitur ira deorum,
Dic, Themi, qua generis damnum reparabile nostri
Arte sit, et mersis fer opem, mitissima, rebus."
Mota dea est sortemque dedit: "discedite templo
Et uelate caput cinctasque resoluite uestes
Ossaque post tergum magnae iactate parentis."
Obstipuere diu, rumpitque silentia uoce
Pyrrha prior iussisque deae parere recusat,
Detque sibi ueniam, pauido rogat ore pauetque
Laedere iactatis maternas ossibus umbras.
Interea repetunt caecis obscura latebris
Verba datae sortis secum inter seque uolutant.
Inde Promethides placidis Epimethida dictis
Mulcet et "aut fallax" ait "est sollertia nobis,
Aut (pia sunt nullumque nefas oracula suadent)
Magna parens terra est: lapides in corpore terrae
Ossa reor dici; iacere hos post terga iubemur."
Coniugis augurio quamquam Titania mota est,
Spes tamen in dubio est: adeo caelestibus ambo
Diffidunt monitis. sed quid temptare nocebit?
Discedunt uelantque caput tunicasque recingunt
Et iussos lapides sua post uestigia mittunt.
Saxa (quis hoc credat, nisi sit pro teste uetustas?)
Ponere duritiem coepere suumque rigorem
Mollirique mora mollitaque ducere formam.
Mox ubi creuerunt naturaque mitior illis
Contigit, ut quaedam, sic non manifesta uideri
Forma potest hominis, sed, uti de marmore coepta,
Non exacta satis rudibusque simillima signis.
Quae tamen ex illis aliquo pars umida suco
Et terrena fuit, uersa est in corporis usum;
Quod solidum est flectique nequit, mutatur in ossa;
Quae modo uena fuit, sub eodem nomine mansit;
Inque breui spatio superorum numine saxa
Missa uiri manibus faciem traxere uirorum,
Et de femineo reparata est femina iactu.
Inde genus durum sumus experiensque laborum
Et documenta damus, qua simus origine nati.
Cetera diuersis tellus animalia formis
Sponte sua peperit, postquam uetus umor ab igne
Percaluit solis caenumque udaeque paludes
Intumuere aestu fecundaque semina rerum
Viuaci nutrita solo ceu matris in aluo
Creuerunt faciemque aliquam cepere morando.
Sic, ubi deseruit madidos septemfluus agros
Nilus et antiquo sua flumina reddidit alueo
Aetherioque recens exarsit sidere limus,
Plurima cultores uersis animalia glaebis
Inueniunt et in his quaedam modo coepta per ipsum
Nascendi spatium, quaedam inperfecta suisque
Trunca uident numeris, et eodem in corpore saepe
Altera pars uiuit, rudis est pars altera tellus.
The rape of Europa. Metamorphoses II, 833-875:
Has ubi uerborum poenas mentisque profanae
Cepit Atlantiades, dictas a Pallade terras
Linquit et ingreditur iactatis aethera pennis.
Seuocat hinc genitor nec causam fassus amoris:
"Fide minister" ait "iussorum, nate, meorum,
Pelle moram solitoque celer delabere cursu
Quaeque tuam matrem tellus a parte sinistra
Suspicit (indigenae Sidonida nomine dicunt),
Hanc pete, quodque procul montano gramine pasci
Armentum regale uides, ad litora uerte".
Dixit et expulsi iamdudum monte iuuenci
Litora iussa petunt, ubi magni filia regis
Ludere uirginibus Tyriis comitata solebat.
Non bene conueniunt nec in una sede morantur
Maiestas et amor; sceptri grauitate relicta,
Ille pater rectorque deum, cui dextra trisulcis
Ignibus armata est, qui nutu concutit orbem,
Induitur faciem tauri mixtusque iuuencis
Mugit et in teneris formosus obambulat herbis.
Quippe color niuis est, quam nec uestigia duri
Calcauere pedis nec soluit aquaticus Auster.
Colla toris exstant, armis palearia pendent;
Cornua parua quidem, sed quae contendere possis
Facta manu puraque magis perlucida gemma.
Nullae in fronte minae nec formidabile lumen;
Pacem uultus habet. miratur Agenore nata
Quod tam formosus, quod proelia nulla minetur;
Sed quamuis mitem, metuit contingere primo.
Mox adit et flores ad candida porrigit ora.
Gaudet amans et, dum ueniat sperata uoluptas,
Oscula dat manibus; uix iam, uix cetera differt.
Et nunc alludit uiridique exsultat in herba
Nunc latus in fuluis niueum deponit harenis;
Paulatimque metu dempto, modo pectora praebet
Virginea plaudenda manu, modo cornua sertis
Impedienda nouis. ausa est quoque regia uirgo,
Nescia quem premeret, tergo considere tauri,
Cum deus a terra siccoque a litore sensim
Falsa pedum primo uestigia ponit in undis,
Inde abit ulterius mediique per aequora ponti
Fert praedam. pauet haec litusque ablata relictum
Respicit et dextra cornum tenet, altera dorso
Imposita est; tremulae sinuantur flamine uestes.
Orpheus and Eurydice
Inde per immensum croceo uelatus amictu
Aethera digreditur Ciconumque Hymenaeus ad oras
Tendit et Orphea nequiquam uoce uocatur.
Adfuit ille quidem, sed nec sollemnia uerba
Nec laetos uultus nec felix attulit omen;
Fax quoque, quam tenuit, lacrimoso stridula fumo
Vsque fuit nullosque inuenit motibus ignes.
Exitus auspicio grauior. nam nupta per herbas
Dum noua naiadum turba comitata uagatur,
Occidit in talum serpentis dente recepto.
Quam satis ad superas postquam Rhodopeius auras
Defleuit uates, ne non temptaret et umbras,
Ad Styga Taenaria est ausus descendere porta
Perque leues populos simulacraque functa sepulcro
Persephonen adiit inamoenaque regna tenentem
Vmbrarum dominum pulsisque ad carmina neruis
Sic ait: "o positi sub terra numina mundi,
In quem reccidimus, quidquid mortale creamur,
Si licet et falsi positis ambagibus oris
Vera loqui sinitis, non huc, ut opaca uiderem
Tartara, descendi, nec uti uillosa colubris
Terna Medusaei uincirem guttura monstri;
Causa uiae est coniunx, in quam calcata uenenum
Vipera diffudit crescentesque abstulit annos.
Posse pati uolui nec me temptasse negabo:
Vicit Amor. supera deus hic bene notus in ora est;
An sit et hic, dubito. sed et hic tamen auguror esse,
Famaque si ueteris non est mentita rapinae,
Vos quoque iunxit Amor. per ego haec loca plena timoris,
Per Chaos hoc ingens uastique silentia regni,
Eurydices, oro, properata retexite fata!
Omnia debentur uobis paulumque morati
Serius aut citius sedem properamus ad unam.
Tendimus huc omnes, haec est domus ultima, uosque
Humani generis longissima regna tenetis.
Haec quoque, cum iustos matura peregerit annos,
Iuris erit uestri: pro munere poscimus usum.
Quod si fata negant ueniam pro coniuge, certum est
Nolle redire mihi: leto gaudete duorum."
Talia dicentem neruosque ad uerba mouentem
Exsangues flebant animae: nec Tantalus undam
Captauit refugam stupuitque Ixionis orbis,
Nec carpsere iecur uolucres, urnisque uacarunt
Belides, inque tuo sedisti, Sisyphe, saxo.
Tunc primum lacrimis uictarum carmine fama est
Eumenidum maduisse genas, nec regia coniunx
Sustinet oranti nec, qui regit ima, negare
Eurydicenque uocant. umbras erat illa recentes
Inter et incessit passu de uulnere tardo.
Hanc simul et legem Rhodopeius accipit Orpheus,
Ne flectat retro sua lumina, donec Auernas
Exierit ualles; aut irrita dona futura.
Carpitur adcliuis per muta silentia trames,
Arduus, obscurus, caligine densus opaca.
Nec procul abfuerant telluris margine summae:
Hic, ne deficeret, metuens auidusque uidendi
Flexit amans oculos: et protinus illa relapsa est
Bracchiaque intendens prendique et prendere certans
Nil nisi cedentes infelix adripit auras.
Iamque iterum moriens non est de coniuge quicquam
Questa suo (quid enim nisi se quereretur amatam?)
Supremumque "uale", quod iam uix auribus ille
Acciperet, dixit reuolutaque rursus eodem est.
Non aliter stupuit gemina nece coniugis Orpheus,
Quam tria qui timidus, medio portante catenas,
Colla canis uidit; quem non pauor ante reliquit,
Quam natura prior, saxo per corpus oborto;
Quique in se crimen traxit uoluitque uideri
Olenos esse nocens, tuque, o confisa figurae,
Infelix Lethaea, tuae, iunctissima quondam
Pectora, nunc lapides, quos umida sustinet Ide.
Orantem frustraque iterum transire uolentem
Portitor arcuerat; septem tamen ille diebus
Squalidus in ripa Cereris sine munere sedit:
Cura dolorque animi lacrimaeque alimenta fuere.
Esse deos Erebi crudeles questus in altam
Se recipit Rhodopen pulsumque aquilonibus Haemum.