Leading Ladies: Glaucus and Scylla

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Leading Ladies
Strong Women in Art
Curated by Katie Sloan

Jacopo da Empoli, Glaucus and Scylla, 1603

"Maiden, I am no monster, nor a sea-animal, but a god; and neither Proteus nor Triton ranks higher than I. Once I was a mortal, and followed the sea for a living; but now I belong wholly to it. But
what avails all this if it fails to move your heart?" (Glaucus on his seeing of Scylla).

Jacopo da Empoli was born in Florence and during his life he developed a style most like those during his time. In later years his naturalism became less evident. The figures in his painting, including this one, had porcelain like skin. This accentuated his classical style which was not as well known in the baroque period. In this painting Scylla's complexion is clear and porcelain. She is very curvaceous like most women painted during the period. 

Glaucus, before becoming a god, was a fisherman. One day, he had caught several fish, and he laid them out on the grass to sort them. They were at first dead, but they then revived and flopped on the ground toward the water and swam away. Glaucus, bewildered by this event, wondered what herb in the grasses could have caused this. He then knelt to taste the plant, and once reaching his palate, he felt the desirable urge to be in the water. When he couldn't control his urge any longer he bid the earth farewell and lived in the water. The gods of the sea welcomed him, and made him an immortal god. A hundred rivers were poured all over him, and he forgot all of his former life. When he awoke his hair was sea green, and trailed behind him. Where he once had legs, was a fishtail. One day Glaucus came across the beautiful maiden, Scylla. Scylla was one of the favored water nymphs. Glaucus found her bathing near the water ,and he spoke to her and tried to win her heart. Frightened, Scylla fled to a cliff to look and see if the man was a god or sea creature. She returned and he tried to win her heart but she fled away again from him all the same. 

Scylla has become another woman in mythology to control a man through his heart. After her refusal,  Glaucus was still obsessed with her and never ceased to love her. The way she is featured in the painting she is the center of attention and her beauty stands on its on. The desperate look on Glaucus' face shows her control over his emotions. She however refuses his love and remains independent. She is another leading lady. 

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