Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ovid by Titian for the King of Spain, in Scotland

I remember being surprised and delighted to find some Titians in Edinburgh a few years ago, and there's a story worthy of Ovid behind why they're there. But first, Ovid himself:

According to Meta. 2.401ff, it was Jupiter (the Roman Zeus) who took the form of Artemis/Diana so that he might evade his wife Juno’s detection, forcing himself upon Callisto while she was separated from Diana and the other nymphs. Her pregnant condition was discovered some months later while bathing with Diana and her fellow nymphs.

Upon this, Diana was enraged and expelled Callisto from the group, and subsequently she gave birth to Arcas. Juno then took the opportunity to avenge her wounded pride and transformed the nymph into a bear.

Sixteen years later Callisto, still a bear, encountered her son Arcas hunting in the forest. Just as Arcas was about to kill his own mother with his javelin, Jupiter averted the tragedy by placing mother and son amongst the stars as Ursa Major and Minor, respectively.

Juno, enraged that her attempt at revenge had been frustrated, appealed to Oceanus that the two might never meet his waters, thus providing a poetic explanation for their circumpolar positions. Wikipedia
Commissioned by Philip II of Spain, Titian's painting of this story from Ovid, and another of Diana and Actaeon, are now for sale in Scotland. NPR has the story here. Ovid is everywhere.

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