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Marsyas: index page

18 February 2009

This is a collection of material about Marsyas.


Pasqualini / Shenstone, Apollo and Marsyas

Etching after Apollo and  Marsyas painting by Sacchi Sacchi painting of Appolo and Marsyas

On the left: Section of the original oil painting by the baroque painter Andrea Sacchi (1599–1661) depicting an allegorical scene praising an Italian castrato singer Pasqualini famous at that time (for more about the painting, see the JSTOR entry on Andrea Sacchi's 'Apollo crowning the singer Marc Antonio Pasquaini'–alas, only the first page can be read free of charge). The castrato is given the laurel by Apollo, who, according to the Greek myth, had won a musical competition with the satyr Marsyas and then flayed him alive (see the Marsyas entry in Lempriere's Classical Dictionary). Marsyas is relegated to the background, tied to a tree and writhing in agony (or anticipation of agony).
On the right: An etching, frontispice in a book by? about? William Shenstone (17141763), poet and landcape gardener (Leasowes), based on the painting. In this variant, Shenstone takes the place of the Italian singer. Marsyas has been left out. Notice the cloth (its original red reminding of Marsyas' skin) has been extended leftwards to hide Apollo's genitals.

(Placeholder): A diagram of the versions of the myth, from the origin of the flute to the welling up of the red river Marsyas. Check different versions, map out where they differ and agree? (surely has been done somewhere already?)

Apollo–Daphne / laurel

The myth of Apollo and Marsyas intersects with another Greek myth, that of Daphne. (A) cupid strikes Apollo with a golden arrow that turns him on, and Daphne with the leaden one that turns her off. She spurns all her admirers and, fleeing Apollo, asks her father, the river god Peneus, to turn her into a laurel tree, which the frustrated Apollo in turn appropriates as his symbol of public triumph. So you have a love that shall not be, an asymmetry of desire, and sublimation in art, with an Ersatz-object (laurel) resulting from Daphne's transformation signifying the fame rewarding artistic endeavour.

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