Claude Gellee

Coast View with Apollo and the Cumaean Sibyl

Coast View with Apollo and the Cumaean Sibyl
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Author: Claude Gellee
Landscape, Painting, Oil on canvas, 99.5x127 сm
Origin: France, Between 1645 and 1649

At the end of the 1630's and all during the 1640s, Lorrain returned more and more frequently to subjects from Ovid's Metamorphoses.

In "Coast View with Apollo and Cumaean Sibyl", the artist refers to the 15th chapter of Metamorphoses, in which Sibyl tells her story. The oracle recalls how in her youth she met the god Apollo and how in exchange for love he offered to carry out her any wish. Gathering up a handful of dust, the maiden asked for as many years of life as there were specks of dust there, but she forgot to ask for eternal youth.

The subject from Classical Antiquity provided Lorrain with a theme for reflection on the swiftness of life's passage and the vanity of being and the frailty of earthly existence. He framed it in a landscape with the remains of ancient ruins. Apollo's gesture, pointing to the handful of dust which is spilling onto the ground from Sibyl's hand, gives a sufficiently clear and traditional reminder of how human life ebbs like sand. The customary symbol of this are the ruins near which the main characters are situated and the fragments of columns which once decorated splendid buildings. To the left, in the foreground, the artist has depicted the ruins of the Roman aqueduct of Marcius. In the distance, against the background of the sea, are the ruins of the Colosseum which serves as evidence that the most remarkable creations of man's hands sooner or later are condemned to perish. The presence in the painting of these rare images is no doubt linked to the archeological interests of the buyer of the canvas, Cardinal Massimi, who was a well-known lover of antiquities and the owner of a remarkable collection of books and manuscripts.

As a rule, the figures one sees in Lorrain's paintings were drawn by other artists. He did this only rarely. In the Coast View with Apollo and Cumaean Sibyl the figures were painted by Filippo Lauri.

Personage: Apollo
Source of entry: Collection of Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall, 1779
Theme: Religion and Mythology of Antiquity
Exibition: French Art: 15th - 18th centuries

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