Our excellent tutor, Dr Michael Paraskos, took us to the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square, W1, for one of our Tuesday morning sessions.
The course at Morley College is called Greek Mythology in Art and what an eye-opener!! I read loads of Myths and Legends as a child and thought I understood the Greek pantheon. Not a bit of it – it’s much more complicated than I’d thought – what with Gods, Goddesses, Titans and Heroes – often known by several names in Greek – let alone what they were called by the Romans.
By co-incidence the Wallace Collection has put together a guide to some of the many images they have of episodes from Greek Myths. Although I’ve visited the Wallace Collection several times, I hadn’t realised just how many paintings of mythical subjects there were.
In the 16th – 19th centuries a hierarchy of painting genres was recognised in which Historical Painting, which included paintings of myths and legends, was at the top, followed by Portrait painting, Genre painting, Landscapes and Cityscapes and Animal painting with Still Life on the bottommost rung.
Historical paintings were almost invariably a good excuse to include one or more nubile semi-nudes.
We visited only some of the objects mentioned in the Gallery tour but they included Titian’s painting of Perseus about to rescue Andromeda.
The mythical theme was carried on to furniture and table centrepieces. This French armoire c 1695 has a depiction of Apollo chasing Daphne on the left and Apollo watching the flaying of the Satyr Marsyas on the right.