12/24/10

Paul Gustave Doré, Les Océanides (Les Naiades de la mer)


Private collection

Date: c. 1860’s
Technique: Oil on canvas, 185.5 x 127 cm

Les Océanides is a haunting interpretation of a scene from Prometheus Bound, a play by Aeschylus, written between 460 and 450 BC. The water nymphs, daughters of the Titan deities Oceanus and Thetis, cling to the rock where Prometheus is chained. His fate was a punishment from Zeus for both stealing back a spark of fire from the Gods and restoring it to man and for holding the secret of the Oracle’s prophecy: how the Océanides’ mother, Thetis, would bear a child greater and more powerful than Zeus himself. As further punishment, Zeus ordered the creation of Pandora, the first woman, who released from her box all the evils of the world. Dramatically lit, Les Océanides, swept by the sea’s current onto Prometheus’s rock, reveal not only Doré’s understanding of chiaroscuro, a talent which can be traced back to his prolific work as an engraver and illustrator, but also the artist’s restless meditation on mythology and its relationship to life and death. Doré’s oeuvre is a crucial link between French Romanticism and European Symbolism.

Source 1
Source 2

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