Last week’s lecture centered on how nature is depicted in art. A corollary to the discussion was on the depiction of the gods in art. For most of the pieces that we were shown, I had a sense that the artist was trying to humanize things that aren’t real or they don’t understand. To give a way of explaining how life forms develop, artists created prints of nymphs that were tied to certain natural wonders. For example, tree nymphs flourish when their tree grows, but they languish along with their counterpart when the tree’s health declines. I saw a similar phenomenon for the description and creation of gods and their artwork. As a way to describe events and happenings that cannot be explained, gods are brought into the fold. For example, love is a tough emotion and phenomenon to explain, so instead, people passed the authority onto gods; in this case the goddess Athena. As time passed and more processes became explainable, the need to use gods and mythical creatures to explain natural happenings became less necessary. This is why we don’t see as many of these productions today. I still think that the belief system is very interesting, as it shows a different way of explaining things that happen in our lives and environment.
I thought that a very interesting part of the lecture was the portion relating to unrequited love, especially the story of Glaucus and Scylla. I did some further reading, and the story goes that Galucus was a prophetic sea god. Similar to a mer-man, he had features of both human and fish, making him a very typical character from mythology. He fell into a deep love for the nymph Scylla, but unfortunately his love was unreturned, as the object of his affections was disgusted by his more “fishy” qualities. In an attempt to win over Scylla, Glaucus goes to the witch Circe to get her to produce a potion for his use that will make the nymph fall as deeply in love with him as he is with her. Unfortunately for Glaucus, this doesn’t go to plan, as instead Circe falls in love with him. When Glaucus doesn’t return the sentiment, she does what any rational character would do: instead of poisoning Scylla to make her love Glaucus, she poisons her to make her so hideous so that nobody could ever love her, even Glaucus. The new version of Scylla had an incredible 12 feet and 6 heads, which I’m assuming was in fact rather unappealing. The interesting thing about this is the artwork that came out of the story. Despite the fact that this is a cautionary, humorous, and dark tale, much of the art that I saw of Glaucus and Scylla showed two characters deeply in love. I guess that this makes sense, as art of a six-headed woman likely wouldn’t sell well, but at the same time, it is far from true as far as veracity goes. My favorite piece of art was Spranger’s painting showing a whale-looking Glaucus ogling Scylla.