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Image of Procris and Cephalus

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Procris and Cephalus

18th century - 19th century
Oil on canvas

21.25 x 17.875 in. (53.975 x 45.403 cm)

Bryn Mawr College
Accession Number: W.149
Classification: Fine and Visual Arts; Paintings; Oil Paintings
Description: This painting depicts a landscape with three classicizing figures and small dog. The three figures, one female and two male, wear Greek-inspired clothing – sandals with straps and loose, flowing garments. The two figures in front also carry quivers full of arrows over their shoulders. The man on the right kneels to pet a white dog with black spots as his grey-blue cloak billows out behind him. The woman on the right is perched next to a fountain. She is draped in several different colored fabrics and red straps cross her bare chest. The fountain consists of plain, squared-off blocks with water spouting from the mouth of a carved face into a small pool on the ground. The second male figure standing slightly behind the others gestures with a spear in hand to the landscape in the distance, which consists of fields, trees, and mountains.

One of the happier moments of the tragic Greco-Roman myth of Procris and Cephalus is the subject of this painting. Several ancient versions exist, including two versions by the Roman poet, Ovid. In later periods, the story’s value was in its discussion of the virtues of marital fidelity and trust, which as a result lent itself as a common theme for plays presented at weddings in the 15th century.

Here we see one of the reconciliations between the couple in their troubled marriage, which was fraught with questions of faithfulness and trust. Cephalus’ test of his wife’s fidelity proved her to be an adulteress, so she fled. The couple is eventually reconciled through the assistance of a shepherd and gifts from the goddess Diana or King Minos. The huntress Procris, identified by her quiver full of arrows, presents her husband with two gifts as peace offerings, an infallible hunting dog named Leilaps and an unerring spear. Cephalus bends to greet Leilaps as the shepherd holding the spear and Procris look on.

Keywords Click a term to view the records with the same keyword
This object has the following keywords:
  • animals
  • Canis familiaris - Domesticated species of Canis, formerly believed to be descended from Canis lupus, gray wolves; however, recent studies suggest that gray wolves and domestic dogs instead have a common ancestor, now extinct. Dogs come in a variety of shapes, and sizes and over 400 distinct breeds. All domestic or feral dogs are descended from a single common ancestral species. For more than 12,000 years, it has lived with humans as a hunting companion, protector, and as herders and guardians of sheep, goats, and cattle. Today, dogs are employed as aids to the blind and disabled, or for police work. In Western art, dogs have generally come to symbolize faithfulness and loyalty, however, in other cultures they can symbolizes a varity of traits, ranging from unclean to seducer.
  • Greek Revival - Refers to the style of architecture and decorative arts in Europe and the United States from the 1750s to ca. 1840, characterized by the use of Classical Greek forms and ornament. Inspired by 18th century archaeological discoveries, it attempted to closely follow original models.
  • landscapes - Creative works, usually two-dimensional, depicting an outdoor scene dominated by the land, hills, fields, sky, trees, fields, rivers or other bodies of water, and other natural elements. Landscapes may include a near point of view in the foreground, but also usually depict a view into the distance. Landscapes may contain architecture or figures, but the primary focus remains the land. When an ocean, sea, or other large body of water dominates the picture, use "seascapes." For actual areas of land rather than depictions, use "landscapes (environments)."
  • marriage - Legal and social unions of a man and woman as husband and wife, or of the union of a gay couple. For the act or ceremony of instituting a marriage, use "weddings (ceremonies)."
  • mythology - Genre and tradition concerning the study of a culture's body of myths, belonging to a particular religious or cultural tradition in an authoritative and official fashion and through symbolic narrative, iconography, or characterization, usually through the forms and personalities of deities.
  • painting - The art and practice of applying pigments suspended in water, oil, egg yolk, molten wax, or other liquid to a surface to create an expressive or communicative image. Paint is usually, but not always, applied with a brush. For the application of paint primarily to protect a surface or add a general color, use "painting (coating)."
  • shepherds - Persons who guard, tend and herd flocks of sheep grazing at large.
  • tragedies - Literary works of serious and dignified character that reach disastrous or sorrowful conclusions.
  • tragedy - Performing arts and literary genre that evokes a serious examination of human events such as birth, death, decay, obsolescence, disaster, love, marriage, and family encountered by individuals or groups. Originating in ancient Greece, the genre developed in a strict format featuring a chorus, a heroic character, myths, and pontification of universal morals or themes. Historically, the criterion of what is tragic has changed, with the idea of psychological corruption, disillusionment, isolation, and individual accountability defining tragedy in the 19th and 20th centuries.

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  • Image Dimensions: 21.25 x 17.875 in. (53.975 x 45.403 cm)

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<ref name=BMC>cite web |url= |title=Procris and Cephalus |author=Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections |accessdate=3/25/2023 |publisher=Bryn Mawr College</ref>

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