The current exhibition in the European works on paper rotation space (on view until April 2) is Gods and Heroes: Classical Mythology in European Prints. The show features 21 prints that cover the Renaissance through the early twentieth century and are by artists from Germany, Holland, France, Italy, and England. Each print offers insight into why European artists used the narratives of classical mythology. This is the second in a series of posts focusing on the exhibition.
We’ve already seen how the ancient sculpture of Italy inspired a French Rococo artist in the four prints of the Bacchanals. In this post, we’ll explore another artist’s use of Classical mythology.
The Mocking of Ceres shows Ceres, the goddess of the earth and agriculture, taking a drink. She has been searching the world for her daughter Persephone, who was abducted by Pluto, the ruler of the underworld. Coming upon a small cottage, she asks an old woman for some water. Because Ceres is drinking quickly, a little boy mocks her for her greediness. Angry, Ceres throws her drink at the boy and turns him into a lizard.
This story is just one of the many told by the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC–AD 17) in his work called Metamorphoses. The book-length poem, written in Latin, collected together Greek mythological stories that had some element of transformation as a plot point.