Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid.


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~Napoleon Bonaparte

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Women in mythology and religion The Judgment of Paris, The Three Graces, Lucretia,Helen of Troy, Bathsheba, Susanna and the Elders, Lot and his daughters, Galatea and Pygmalion

                                            Edited, May 9, 2012                                      

I have noticed in mythology many abductions and rapes of women. Mythology or religion shapes our view of reality and how we view women and men. Furthermore, mythology and religion provide the guidance what behaviors are acceptable or not, giving us a moral code.
If gods can do it……

We have already seen Zeus who seduced Leda, Danae,  and Europa. 

The Judgement of Paris

At about this time the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, the hero and the sea-goddess, was celebrated on Mount Pelion. All the gods and goddesses were invited, with the noted exception of Eris, the Goddess of Strife, who was hideous and disagreeable. Angered at being left out of the nuptuals she strode into the middle of the wedding feast and threw a golden apple into the assembled company. It landed between the three most powerful goddesses, Hera, Athene and Aphrodite. Picking it up, Zeus found it was inscribed ‘For the Fairest’. Wisely deciding not to judge between the three deities himself, Zeus nominated the beautiful Paris as arbiter, but first he sent Hermes to enquire whether he would be willing to act as judge. Paris agreed and so a time was set for the three goddesses to appear to him on Mount Ida.

When the day came,
Paris sat himself on a boulder and waited with beating heart for the arrival of the three great deities. All at once a great light appeared which covered the entire mountain. At first Paris was blinded, but then the goddesses cloaked their light in cloud so that he was able to look at them. First Hera, the great queen, approached him and flaunted her beauty in front of him. Radiant with glory she made him a promise. If he awarded her the apple, she would grant him wealth and power. He would rule over the greatest kingdom on earth. Paris felt the excitement of this and his ambition rose up and yearned for her gift.
After that, grey-eyed Athene approached him, drawing near and bending down, so that he might look into the magical depths of her eyes. She promised him victory in all battles, together with glory and wisdom - the three most precious gifts a man could have. This time
Paris felt his mind leap with excitement and with desire for the riches of knowledge and the glory of prowess.
Then it was the turn of Aphrodite. Hanging back a little, she tilted her head so that her hair fell forward, concealing a blush on her face. Then she loosened the girdle of her robe and beneath it,
Paris caught sight of her perfectly formed breast, white as alabaster.

Paris,’ she said, and her voice seemed to sing inside his head. ‘Give me the apple and in return I will give you the gift of love. You will possess the most beautiful woman in the land, a woman equal to me in perfection of form. With her you will experience the greatest delights of love-making. Choose me, Paris, and she will be yours.’

Paris, overpowered by the intoxication of her words and her beauty, found himself handing her the apple without even pausing to reflect on his decision, guided only by the strength of his desire.

So it was that
Paris awarded the Apple of Discord to Aphrodite, and Hera and Athene became his implacable enemies. True to her promise, Aphrodite gave him Helen, the most beautiful woman living on the earth at that time - but, in order to enjoy her, he had to snatch her from her powerful husband, Menelaus. So began the terrible ten-years’ war between the Trojans and the Greeks in which many a brave hero lost his life, including Paris himself, and after which the great hero Odysseus wandered the seas for a further ten long years before returning home.

"The Judgement of Paris" by Lucas Cranach the Elder

  Rubens The Judgment of Paris

 Luca Giordano, The Judgment of Paris

 Frans Floris, The Judgment of Paris

The Judgement of Paris, William Blake

 George Frederic Watts,The Judgement Of Paris

 Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, The Judgment of Paris

The Judgment of Paris, The Hague, Geneva and Brussels contest for the Golden Apple of the League of Nations

The character and nature of the Charites (Three Graces) are sufficiently expressed by the names they bear: they were conceived as the goddesses who gave festive joy and enhanced the enjoyments of life by refinement and gentleness. Gracefulness and beauty in social intercourse are therefore attributed to them. (Horat. Carm. iii. 21, 22; Pind. Ol. xiv. 7, &c.) They are mostly described as being in the service or attendance of other divinities, as real joy exists only in circles where the individual gives up his own self and makes it his main object to afford pleasure to others.

They were often represented as the companions of other gods, such as Hera, Hermes, Eros, Dionysus, Aphrodite, the Horae, and the Muses.


Hesiod, Theogony 907 (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"And Eurynome (Broad Pasture), the daughter of Okeanos (Oceanus), beautiful in form, bare him [Zeus] three fair-cheeked Kharites (Charites, Graces), Aglaia (Aglaea, Glory, Beauty), and Euphrosyne (Merriment), and lovely Thaleia (Thalia, Festivity), from whose eyes as they glanced flowed love that unnerves the limbs: and beautiful is their glance beneath their brows."


The Anacreontea, Fragment 38, Vol. Greek Lyric II) (C5th B.C.) :
"Let us be merry and drink wine and sing of Bacchus . . . thanks to him Methe (Drunkenness) was brought forth, the Charisties, Grace) was born, Lupa (Pain) takes rest and Ania (Trouble) goes to sleep."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 16. 130 (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Dionysos:] ‘I will present you with the Kharites (Charites, Graces) of divine Orkhomenos (Orchomenus) . . . my daughters, whom I will take from Aphrodite.’"

Homer, Iliad 14. 231 (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Hera answered him [Hypnos god of sleep]: ‘. . . I will give you one of the younger (hoploterai) (Charites, Graces) for you to marry, and she shall be called you lady; Pasithea, since all your days you have loved her forever.’
So she spoke, and Hypnos was pleased and spoke to her in answer: ‘Come then! Swear it to me on Styx' ineluctable water. With one hand take hold of the prospering earth, with the other take hold of the shining salt sea, so that all the undergods who gather about Cronus may be witnesses to us. Swear that you will give me one of the younger Kharites, Pasithea, the one whom all my days I have longed for.’"

 The Three Graces, Raphael

Rubens, Three Graces

 Jacques-Louis David, Mars Disarmed By Venus And The Three Graces 

 Sandro Botticelli,  Primavera (detail)

The Three Graces, Edward Coley Burne-Jones

In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy, also known as Helen of Sparta, was the daughter of Zeus and Leda (or Nemesis), daughter of King Tyndareus, wife of Menelaus and sister of Castor, Polydeuces and Clytemnestra. Her abduction by Paris brought about the Trojan War.
In most sources, including the Iliad and the Odyssey, Helen is the daughter of Zeus and Leda, the wife of the Spartan king Tyndareus. Euripides' play Helen, written in the late 5th century BC, is the earliest source to report the most familiar account of Helen's birth: that, although her putative father was Tyndareus, she was actually Zeus' daughter. In the form of a swan, the king of gods was chased by an eagle, and sought refuge with Leda. The swan gained her affection, and the two mated. Leda then produced an egg, from which Helen emerged. The First Vatican Mythographer introduces the notion that two eggs came from the union: one containing Castor and Pollux; one with Helen and Clytemnestra. Nevertheless, the same author earlier states that Helen, Castor and Pollux were produced from a single egg. Pseudo-Apollodorus states that Leda had intercourse with both Zeus and Tyndareus the night she conceived Helen.
Helen and Paris, Louvre

Tintoretto, Rape of Helen

Francesco Primaticcio, Rape of Helena

Helen of Troy, Evelyn de Morgan

Rape of Lucretia

Roman woman whose rape by Sextus Tarquinius, the son of the last Roman king Lucius Tarquinius Superbus (R: 535-510 B.C.), and her subsequent suicide, caused an uprising led by her husband and by her kinsman Lucius Junius Brutus, which ultimately resulted in the fall of the kingdom of Rome and the establishment of the Republic. Lucretia's rape and suicide were a prominent theme in the arts, particularly from the 16th century onwards.

Titian, Tarquinius and Lucretia

Felice Ficherelli, The Rape of Lucretia

  Luca Giordano, The Rape of Lucretia

        Simon Vouet, Lucretia And Tarquin

Sodoma, Death of Lucretia

Artemisia Gentileschi, Lucretia

 Lucretia,  Paolo Veronese

Cleopatra VII Philopator, known to history as Cleopatra, was the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.

 Jacob Jordaens, Cleopatra's Feast

Eugène Delacroix - Cleopatra and the Peasant

 Lawrence Alma-Tadema - Antony and Cleopatra

 The meaning of the Hebrew form of the name "Bathsheba" is "daughter of the oath", "bath" meaning daughter. The second part of the name appears in Chronicles 3:5 as "shua" (signifying "wealth") (compare Genesis 38:2).
 The story of David's seduction of Bathsheba, told in 2 Samuel 11, is omitted in Chronicles. The story is told that David, while walking on the roof of his palace, saw Bathsheba, who was then the wife of Uriah, bathing. He immediately desired her and later made her pregnant.
Rembrandt, Bathsheba at her bath

 Paulo Veronese,  Bathsheba at Bath

 Artemisia Gentileschi - Bathsheba

       Paul Cézanne - Bathsheba 2

Franz von Stuck, Batsheba

Susanna or Shoshana  included in the Book of Daniel (as chapter 13) by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Ortodox churches. It is one of the  additions to Daniel, considered apocryphal by Protestants. It is listed in Article VI of the Thirty- Nine Articles of the Church of England among the books which are included in the Bible but not used for the formation of doctrine. It is not included in the  Jewish Tanakh and is not mentioned in early Jewish literature.
As the story goes, a fair ebrew wife named Susanna is falsely accused by lecherousvoyeurs. As she bathes in her garden, having sent her attendants away, two lustful elders secretly observe the lovely Susanna. When she makes her way back to her house, they accost her, threatening to claim that she was meeting a young man in the garden unless she agrees to have sex with them.

 Paolo Veronese,Susanna in the Bath

  Guercino, Susanna and the Old Men

 Susanna and the Elders, Artemisia Gentilesch

  Théodore Chasseriau, Susanna and the Elders

 Franz von Stuck, Susanna in the Bath

                         Tamara de Lempicka Suzanna in the Bath

Lot  is a character from the Book of Genesis chapters 11-14 and 19, in the HebrewBible. Notable episodes in his life include his travels with his uncle  Abraham, the patriarch of Israel; his flight from the Kingdom of  Sodom, in the course of which Lot's wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt; and the seduction by his daughters so that they could bear children.
Both Christains and Isalm revere Lot as a righteous person of God. The Biblical stories of drunkness and incest attributed to Lot are absent in the  Qur'an.

Wtewael Joachim, Lot and his daughters
Hendrick Goltzius, Lot and his daughters


Myth of Galatea 
In ancient Greece lived a handsome and talented sculptor named Pygmalion. He loved his work and would spend hours carving beautiful ivory statues, always at his happiest when immersed in his art.
One day he chose a large, beautiful piece of ivory, and worked for many long hours at it, chiseling and hammering until he finished. It was a statue of a beautiful lady. Pygmalion at once fell in love with his creation - he thought it was so beautiful, and he clothed the figure, gave it jewels, and named it Galatea, which means "sleeping love". Treating Galatea as if she were his girlfriend, he brought his ivory statue shells and pebbles, little birds and flowers of all colors. He was obsessed! 
Now, you must understand that Pygmalion was so into his art that he had vowed never to marry. He had no time for girls, just his sculptures. Still, the more he gazed upon Galatea, the more he wished that he had a wife just like her, but alive.
During a big festival in honor of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, Pygmalion went to the temple of Aphrodite to pray for a wife just like the statue in his home. His prayers were so fervent and heart-felt, and his passion so great, that the great goddess took notice.
Wanting to see for herself what all the fuss was about, Aphrodite visited the home of the sculptor and was delighted to see the ivory Galatea. She couldn't help but think that the statue looked much like herself, it was so perfect. Pleased and flattered she brought the statue to life.
When the sculptor returned home and kissed Galatea as was his custom, he was startled at her warmth. As he showered her with kisses he was beside himself with joy at discovering that slowly the ivory was turning into flesh. Galatea smiled down at him and spoke adoring words to her loving creator.
Pygmalion and the ImageThe Heart Desire

Pygmalion and the ImageThe Heart Desire

         Pygmalion and the Image: The Godhead Fires

Pygmalion and the Image:The Soul Attains
The story has been the subject of notable paintings by Jean-Léon Gérôme, Honoré Daumier, Edward Burne-Jones (four major works from 1868-1870, then again in larger versions from 1875-1878), Auguste Rodin, Ernest Normand, Paul Delvaux, Francisco Goya, Franz von Stuck, Francois Boucher, and Thomas Rowlandson, among others. There have also been numerous sculptures of the 'awakening'
Hm.....we see a butterfly.....a symbol of Psyche as she was depicted with butterfly wings.

       Louis Gauffier, Pygmalion and Galatea

       Agnolo Bronzino, Galatea and Pygmalion

   Franz von Stuck, Pygmalion

In Roman mythology, Flora was a goddess of flowers and the season of spring. While she was otherwise a relatively minor figure in Roman mythology, being one among several fertility goddesses, her association with the spring gave her particular importance at the coming of springtime. Her festival, the Floralia, was held between April 28 and May 3 and symbolized the renewal of the cycle of life, drinking, and flowers. The festival was first instituted in 240 B.C.E but on the advice of the Sibylline books she was given another temple in 238 B.C.E. Her Greek equivalent was Chloris, who was a nymph and not a goddess at all. Flora was married to Favonius, the wind god, and her companion was Hercules. Her name is derived from the Latin word "flos" which means "flower." In modern English, "Flora" also means the plants of a particular region or period.
Flora achieved more prominence in the neo-pagan revival of Antiquity among Renaissance humanists than she had ever enjoyed in ancient Rome.
She is the main character of the ballet  The awakening of Flora.


The Triumph of Flora by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (1866). South façade of the Pavillon de Flore, Louvre

Sandro Botticelli, Primavera


Flora, Jan Matsys

   Nicolas Poussin, The Triumph of Flora


Nicolas Poussin, The Empire of Flora  
There is another interesting theme that has attracted attention of many painters such as After bath or Bathers. But I can't connect with mythology or religion. Perhaps, there is a different explanation for that.

                                    Pierre-Auguste Renoir, After The Bath

                                            Pierre-Auguste Renoir

                                             Edgar Degas, After the Bath

                                                       Edgar Degas

 Paul Cezanne, Bathers

Paul Cezanne, Women Bathing 

                          Théodore Chassériau - Moorish Woman Leaving the Bath 

                                   Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, The Tepidarium

                                  Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, A Favorite Custom

 Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, A Bath (an Antique Custom)

 Lord Frederick Leighton, A Bather

 Lord Frederick Leighton, A Bather

                                                    Godward,Venus at the Bath

                  William-Adolphe Bouguereau, After the Bath       

       Ernst Ludwig Kirchner - Three Bathers                      

                                         Tamara de  Lempicka Women Bathing

To view part II click here  (April blog)