Object Image

A Satyr mourning over a Nymph

A nymph - a mythological spirit of nature imagined as a young woman - lies on a patch of grass in the foreground, blood streaming from wounds on her throat and hand. A satyr, half man and half goat, kneels next to her, mourning her death. A dog sits at her feet, balancing the stooping figure of the satyr and seemingly mourning as well. More dogs appear at the lakeside in the background.

It has been suggested that this painting depicts an episode from the Metamorphoses, an influential poem by the ancient Roman writer Ovid. If this is the case, then the beautiful nymph would be Procris, who was accidentally killed by her husband Cephalus. A fifteenth-century adaptation of the Metamorphoses added the satyr, which is not mentioned by Ovid.

The painting's dimensions suggest that it was part of furniture or inserted into wooden panelling. Piero di Cosimo specialised in the production of such paintings, known as spalliere.

Credit: Bought, 1862

c. 1495
Oil on poplar
65.4 x 184.2cm
Image and text © The National Gallery, London, 2024

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