Perseus and Andromeda (Leighton)
|Perseus and Andromeda|
|Medium||Oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||235 cm × 129.2 cm (93 in × 50.9 in)|
|Location||Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK|
Perseus and Andromeda is an oil painting by Lord Frederic Leighton. Completed in 1891, the year it was displayed at the Royal Academy of Arts, it depicts the Greek mythological story of Andromeda. In contrast to the basis on a classical tale, Leighton used a Gothic style for the artwork. The painting is in the collection of National Museums Liverpool at the Walker Art Gallery.
In Greek mythology, the kingdom of Ethiopia was ruled by the beautiful but vain queen, Cassiope; she maintained her beauty was superior to that of the sea nymphs, who were the daughters of Poseidon, the god of the sea. When the nymphs became aware of her claims, they protested to their father, who retaliated by calling up a sea monster called Cetus to patrol and wreak havoc along the coastline of Ethiopia placing Cassiope's kingdom at risk. In response the Queen, together with her husband Cepheus, decided to sacrifice her daughter, Princess Andromeda, to the monster.
Andromeda was chained to a rock at the edge of the sea as an offering to the monster. Perseus was travelling back home on his winged horse, Pegasus, after battling with Medusa. He rescued Andromeda by killing the monster. The couple fell in love but the Princess was already betrothed to Phineus. Perseus argued with Phineus at the wedding, but the fight was drawn to a conclusion when Phineus was turned to stone after Perseus brandished the head of the defeated Medusa.
The mythological theme of Andromeda is depicted in a dramatic manner. The scene is a representation of the myth set on a rocky shore. Perseus is depicted flying above the head of Andromeda, on his winged horse Pegasus. He is shooting an arrow from the air, that hits the sea monster, who turns his head upwards, towards the hero. Andromeda's almost naked, twisted body is shaded by the wings of the dark creature, creating a visual sign of imminent danger. Andromeda's sinuous body is contrasted against the dark masses of the monster's irregular and jagged body. The white body of Andromeda is depicted in pure and untouched innocence, indicating an unfair sacrifice for a divine punishment that was not directed towards her, but her mother. Pegasus and Perseus are surrounded by a halo of light that connects them visually to the white body of the princess, chained to the rock.
Leighton cast a small bronze painted plaster sculpture of Andromeda as a study before commencing work on the painting. The statuette was naked but Leighton placed wet materials over it to achieve the effect he wanted to reproduce in his work. A later artwork, Perseus on Pegasus Hastening to the Rescue of Andromeda, completed four years later, portrayed the same story.
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