Mythic Art: The Myth of Deucalion and Pyrrha

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The Myth of Deucalion and Pyrrha, Niccolò Giolfino,1550 

Mythic Art

The Myth of Deucalion and Pyrrha depicts a narrative similar to that of the Noah's Ark story of the Judeo-Christian Bible. Zeus, the king of the g-ds, decides to annihilate all humanity via flood. Deucalion constructs an ark for him and his wife, Pyrrha. They then sail to Mount Parnassus, upon arriving to the mountain top, they solicit permission to recreate the human race. They were subsequently ordered to cast behind them the bones of their mother. Deucalion and Pyrrha interpreted their message to throw stones on the mountain or mother earth. Deucalion's stones became male children and Pyrrha's female. 

This tempera on panel work portrays the story while remaining true to the artistic elements of the Renaissance. Giolfino illustrates his message through staging by employing the use of mountains and other natural features. In addition, he uses creases and lifelike bodily characteristics similar to his other Renaissance counterparts. The dark background gives meaning to the mood of the piece, the destruction of one civilization and the dawning of a new one. Additionally, the buildings in the background show the promise for a prosperous society. Similarly, the sprouting of trees also illustrates hope for renewed life. The part in the Earth between Deucalion and Pyrrha illustrate the impending gender divide of women in the private sphere and men in the public. However, the commonality of Pyrrha's yellow headpiece and Deucalion’s yellow robe, shows that men and women are "cut from the same cloth".

The Myth of Deucalion and Pyrrha emphasizes concepts such as mourning, the emergence of new found life and hope for the incoming generation. Giolfino's work exemplifies Greek myth and expresses ideals that humans confront in their daily lives.

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