Tag Archives: sea nymphs

Mythology on Canvas: Mythological Model (4)

This week’s offering is the Perseus series painted by Edward Burne-Jones and featuring Maria Zambaco as model. In the first painting, Perseus receives his call from the goddess, Athena. It looks as if Maria was used as the face model for both characters.

The Call of Perseus by Edward Burne-Jones
The Call of Perseus by Edward Burne-Jones

Her apparent profile (as Perseus) is seen again in the next painting…

Perseus and the Graiae by Edward Burne-Jones
Perseus and the Graiae by Edward Burne-Jones

… and again in the next. Her face also appears on at least two (possibly all three) of the Hesperides (sea nymphs), for which she surely was used as the body model as well.

Perseus and the Sea Nymphs by Edward Burne-Jones
Perseus and the Sea Nymphs by Edward Burne-Jones

 She seems also to have been a model for the Gorgon, Medusa, shown atypically without snakes in her hair. This approach of making a hideous figure hauntingly or morbidly beautiful adds poignancy to the next two paintings.

The Finding of Medusa by Edward Burne-Jones
The Finding of Medusa by Edward Burne-Jones

 

The Death of Medusa by Edward Burne-Jones
The Death of Medusa by Edward Burne-Jones

Maria is obviously Andromeda in the next sequence, in which Perseus finds her and rescues her from the sea serpent, Cetus.

The Rock of Doom by Edward Burn-Jones
The Rock of Doom by Edward Burn-Jones

 

The Doom Fulfilled by Edward Burne-Jones
The Doom Fulfilled by Edward Burne-Jones

Finally, we come to the last painting in the series. Andromeda is shown gazing at the head of Medusa reflected in a basin of water.

The Baleful Head by Edward Burne-Jones
The Baleful Head by Edward Burne-Jones

I covered this series in multiple posts earlier in my series, Mythology On Canvas. This was necessary because I gave more of the background for the actual myth, but I thought it would be good to visit this topic once again by showing all of the paintings together.

Next week: one more post on Maria Zambaco before changing topics.

Mythology on Canvas (Part 9)

The Perseus Series by Edward Burne-Jones (continued from last week):

To fulfill his promise, Perseus must seek the Hesperides (called sea nymphs in this series of paintings) for help, but he does not know where to find them. He must ask the Graiae (“gray ones” or “gray witches”) for information as to their whereabouts. Since they are sisters of Medusa, they are unlikely to help him willingly.

Perseus and the Graiae by Edward Burne-Jones
Perseus and the Graiae by Edward Burne-Jones

The three Graiae have only one eye between them and must share in its use. Perseus steals the eye as they are passing it among themselves and holds it at ransom until they give him the desired information.

Perseus and the Sea Nymphs by Edward Burne-Jones
Perseus and the Sea Nymphs by Edward Burne-Jones

He then goes to the Hesperides (sea nymphs), who give him a sack for safely transporting the head of Medusa. He also receives such tools as a polished shield from the goddess Athena (evidently shown out of sequence with a mirror in the first painting, The Call of Perseus, shown last week) winged sandals from Hermes, a helm of darkness from Hades, and a sword from Zeus. In the above picture, all of these events are consolidated as the conferring of the gifts by the sea nymphs, who are identified by virtue of being shown standing on a puddle.

(to be continued)