For the next several posts, I will comment on the Perseus series by Edward Burne-Jones . These paintings are based not strictly on the story from ancient Greek mythology but also on a rather florid nineteenth century poem whose title and author at present escape my memory. Take, for example, the first painting in the series: The call of Perseus.
In looking up the details of the legend, I could find no mention of what this picture depicts, so I am assuming this scene came from the poem. The actual background is that the demigod Perseus was the son of Zeus and a mortal named Danae. Later on in the story, Perseus shields his mother from an amorous king under whose hospitality they are living. In an effort to disgrace Perseus, this king creates an occasion for various men to give him horses as gifts. Perseus (“of course, of course” for those who might recognize this phrase) has no horse but offers to fulfill any wish that the king might lay upon him. He is assigned the seemingly impossible task of bringing back the head of Medusa, a Gorgon with snakes for hair. Upon the mere sight of her, onlookers turn to stone.
(to be continued)