Monday, July 3, 2017

Unicorn Abduction

Albrecht Dürer
Abduction of Proserpine on a Unicorn
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Landscape with St Theodore overcoming the Dragon
Morgan Library, New York

Marco Marchetti (Marco da Faenza)
Hercules and the Lernean Hydra
ca. 1555-56
oil on panel
Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

"But most rare among the other men of Romagna, in certain respects, is Marco da Faenza (for only so, and not otherwise, is he called), for the reason that he has no ordinary mastery in the work of fresco, being bold, resolute, and of a terrible force, and particularly in the manner and practice of making grotesques, in which he has no equal at the present day, nor one who even approaches his perfection.  His works may be found throughout all Rome, and in Florence there is by his hand the greater part of the ornaments of twenty different rooms that are in the Ducal Palace, and the friezes of the ceiling in the Great Hall of that Palace, which was painted by Giorgio Vasari, as will be fully described in the proper place; not to mention that the decorations of the principal court of the same Palace, made in a short time for the coming of Queen Joanna, were executed in great part by the same man.  And this must be enough of Marco, he being still alive, and in the flower of his growth and activity."

 from Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects by Giorgio Vasari (1568), translated by Gaston du C. de Vere (1912)

Johannes Stradanus
Ulysses in Circe's palace with his companions transformed into beasts
Royal Collection, Windsor

Luzio Luzzi
Reclining Sphinx with Monkey
before 1575
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Christopher Plantin, printer
Processional Float shaped as Sea Monster for Joyous Entry into Antwerp
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

ca. 1595-98
oil on canvas
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence


Let not the sun shine bright on thee,
    nor glistering moone by night;
And of thy eyes let glimsing starres,
    forsake the wicked sight.
Let not the fire graunt thee his heate,
    nor ayre humiditie:
Let neither earth nor yet the sea,
    free passage grant to thee.
That banyshed and poor thou mayst,
    straunge houses seeke in vaine:
That craving to, with trembling voyce
    small almes mayst obtaine,
That neither sownd of body, nor
    thy mynde in perfect plight:
This  night be worse than passed day,
    and next day than this night.

– from Ovid's Invective against Ibis, translated by Thomas Underdowne (1587)

Girolamo Frezza after Pompeo Batoni
Younger Furietti Centaur (ancient statue)
British Museum

Donato Creti
Achilles entrusted to the Centaur Chiron
before 1749
oil on canvas
Palazzo d'Accursio, Bologna

Gustave Moreau
The Chimera
oil on panel
Harvard Art Museums

Zeus as Eagle abducting Ganymede
Kupferstichkabinett, Dresden

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
The Question of the Sphinx
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

John William Waterhouse
Ulysses and the Sirens
oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

First to the Sirens ye shall come, that taint
The minds of all men whom they can acquaint
With their attractions. Whosoever shall
(For want of knowledge mov'd) but heare the call
Of any Siren, he will so despise
Both wife and children for their sorceries,
That never home turnes his affection's streame,
Nor they take joy in him, nor he in them.
The Sirens will so soften with their song
(Shrill, and in sensuall appetite so strong)
His loose affections that he gives them heed.
And then observe: They sit amidst a meade,
And round about it runnes a hedge or wall
Of dead men's bones, their withered skins and all
Hung all along upon it: and these men
Were such as they had fawnd into their Fen,
And then their skins hung on their hedge of bones.
Sail by them therefore, thy companions
Before hand causing to stop every eare
With sweete soft waxe so close that none may heare
A note of all their charming. Yet may you
(If you affect it) open eare allow
To trie their motion: but presume not so
To trust your judgement when your senses go
So loose about you, but give straight command
To all your men to bind you foote and hand
Sure to the Mast, that you may safe approve
How strong in instigation to their love
Their rapting tunes are.

 from Homer's Odyssey, book twelve, translated by George Chapman (1614)

Centaur Mosaic
AD 120-130
Altes Museum, Berlin