Object Image

The god Pan pursues the virginal nymph Syrinx, who flails her arms as she teeters on the edge of the river Ladon, a frog escaping out of her path. She is moments from being transformed by river nymphs into reeds, in answer to her prayers to escape her unwanted suitor. Pan would later use these reeds to fashion his musical pipes.

The story of Pan and Syrinx is recounted by the Roman poet Ovid in Metamorphoses, a long verse narrative that retells ancient Greek and Roman legends. The figures were probably painted by the Flemish artist Hendrick van Balen the Elder and the landscape by an artist working in the style of Jan Brueghel the Elder, who specialised in painting landscapes and flowers. The composition was probably inspired by a print of the same subject by Hendrick Goltzius.

Credit: Bought, 1860

possibly after 1615
Oil on copper
25.0 x 19.4cm
Image and text © The National Gallery, London, 2024

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