Tag Archives: dragon

Mythology on Canvas: Mythological Model (1)

Maria Zambaco is one of the most (perhaps the most) recognizable models of the Pre-Raphaelites. She sat for some portraits by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, one of the founding Pre-Raphaelite painters. An example is shown below.

zambaco-2

Here is another striking image in black and white by the same artist:

Portrait of a Lady by Dante Gabriel Rosetti
Portrait of a Lady by Dante Gabriel Rosetti

But her more famous exposure (no pun intended) was in a number of paintings by Edward Burne-Jones. In these, she was portrayed as a number of different characters from mythology in various states of dress. In the following examples, I am reminded of the similarity between the legends of Perseus slaying Cetus and Saint George slaying the dragon.

The Doom Fulfilled by Edward Burne-Jones
The Doom Fulfilled by Edward Burne-Jones
Saint George slaying the dragon after untying Sabra
Saint George slaying the dragon after untying Sabra

Born Maria Terpsithea Cassavetti on April 29, 1843, in London, she was the daughter of a wealthy Anglo-Hellenic merchant. She studied art, including a stint as a student of Auguste Rodin in Paris.  In the 1880s, she even worked as a sculptor, contributing some medallions to the British Museum, some of which are shown below.

zambaco-5

zambaco-4

But she is better known for her modeling. With dark red hair and very pale skin, this statuesque woman evidently had a very striking appearance.

Headstrong and independent she married Dr. Demetrius Zambaco and bore him two children, but the marriage was troubled and did not last. She moved back in with her mother in 1866, and it was her mother who commissioned Edward Burne-Jones to paint her as both cupid and psyche during that same year.

Cupid and Psyche by Edward Burne-Jones.
Cupid and Psyche by Edward Burne-Jones.

Although the artist would make several versions of this painting with Maria as a model, the above painting (as nearly as I can tell) is the commission that introduced him to her. And that started all the trouble…

(to be continued)

Mythological Beasts And Spirits: Wyvern

From its place of hibernation, from its lair beneath the lake, Rupturing the liquid membrane, to the surface burst the Drake. From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III
From its place of hibernation, from its lair beneath the lake,
Rupturing the liquid membrane, to the surface burst the Drake.
From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III

The Wyvern was a winged, bipedal dragon. Technically, it differs from the Drake, which was a smaller version of a winged, four-legged dragon, but various literary works have used the term, Drake, to represent dragons in general. I took poetic license and used both terms interchangeably because it afforded me more flexibility in forming rhymes. For this, I hope I will be forgiven by those who are purists.

St. George and the Dragon by Paolo Ucello. Note that the dragon in this particular painting is a Wyvern.
St. George and the Dragon by Paolo Ucello.
Note that the dragon in this particular painting is a Wyvern.

The Wyvern appears in Celtic works, as shown below.

Wyvern depicted in a 14th Century Welsh manuscript.
Wyvern depicted in a 14th Century Welsh manuscript.

This creature is believed to have been used in medieval heraldry as well.

Possible symbol of the medieval kingdom of Wessex.
Possible symbol of the medieval kingdom of Wessex.

I tried to avoid modern fantasy art since the imagery is so familiar to enthusiasts, but I couldn’t ignore this diagram of a Wyvern skeleton. It harks back to my grade school (and current) fascination with dinosaurs, and it reminds my of illustrations from some of the books I owned in childhood.

Wyvern skeleton by BerserkMecha on Deviant Art.
Wyvern skeleton by BerserkMecha on Deviant Art.

Allow me to indulge myself by ending today’s post with another drawing of my own.

Bowstring sang, and arrow quivered... From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III
Bowstring sang, and arrow quivered…
From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III

Mythological Beasts And Spirits: Lindworm

"Why should you deny my challenge? Is it that I have no wings? Missing these, I still can best you. Come. See how my venom stings." From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III
“Why should you deny my challenge? Is it that I have no wings?
Missing these, I still can best you. Come. See how my venom stings.”
From: The Staff in the Tree by Robert Lambert Jones III

This is perhaps the most grotesque of the creatures in this series. It is an awkward-looking reptile, a dragon with only two legs and no wings, but “bipedal, wingless dragon” sounds more erudite. Alternatively, one might view it as a two-legged serpent. It is another of the creatures used in heraldry.

There are different ways to interpret a Lindworm. Sometimes they are shown as walking on two “hind” legs on which they balance. The forelimbs are obviously missing. This approach seems to me to be the one used in the following coat of arms.

Coat of Arms of Wurmannsquick
Coat of Arms of Wurmannsquick

My eyes were drawn to the following illustration for its bold lines and its detail and because it incorporates elements of an older style. As the credit at the lower right of the drawing implies, I believe it was drawn by an artist who goes by the name of Liza Phoenix. If I am wrong please correct me so that I can update my information.

lindworm3

Alternatively, a Lindworm may be portrayed as lacking hind legs and writhing like a snake. Its forelimbs might be used for pulling itself along and/or grabbing at prey as in the next illustration (for which I could find no credit).

lindworm2

Pictures like these used to rev my motor when I was a boy. Actually, they still do. Next week, I will mention a variant of the Lindworm.

Mythology on Canvas (Part 12)

The legend of Saint George and the Dragon is said to have been brought to Europe from the Middle East by the crusaders. Whether intentionally or not, it bears some rather obvious parallels to the myth of Perseus slaying Cetus to rescue Andromeda. For this reason, I have chosen to show one last set of paintings by Edward Burne-Jones.

For those of you unfamiliar with the legend, it takes place in a region of Libya, where a dragon was plaguing the kingdom. The citizenry were sacrificing their daughters to the dragon by lottery, and the lot eventually fell on the king’s daughter (Sabra in some accounts). Saint George happens upon her while she is tied to a pole or tree, waits until the dragon appears, and eventually slays it. Here, then, in pictures is the story:

Sabra
Sabra
The lottery (with Sabra second in line)
The lottery (with Sabra second in line)
Sabra being led to the sacrifice
Sabra being led to the sacrifice
Sabra tied to the pole as the maidens depart
Sabra tied to the pole as the maidens depart
Saint George slaying the dragon after untying Sabra
Saint George slaying the dragon after untying Sabra
Saint George returning Sabra after defeating the dragon.(c) Bristol Museum and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Saint George returning Sabra after defeating the dragon.(c) Bristol Museum and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

I have refrained from commentary on individual paintings. Readers can parse out the elements of drama and irony for themselves. Simply looking at the pictures and captions is a bit like reading a comic book.

Next week: the beginning of a collection of paintings from our last artist.