Perseus and Andromeda

oil painting of Perseus and Andromeda riding Pegasus through the sky

Giambattista Tiepolo (1696–1770)
Perseus and Andromeda, ca. 1730–31
Oil on canvas
20 3/8 x 16 in. (51.8 x 40.6 cm)
The Frick Collection, New York
© The Frick Collection

 

Tiepolo took liberties with Ovid's Metamorphoses in showing Perseus riding the winged horse Pegasus instead of flying by way of a pair of winged sandals, as in the original text. At the bottom is the rock on which Andromeda was chained, with remnants of her shackles still attached to it. In the sea below is the dying monster, with Perseus's lance — which has shattered upon piercing its head — above its eye. To the left, and behind the rock, are five Nereids, crying, presumably for the death of the monster, as well as from the humiliation suffered because of Cassiopeia's comments. In the sky, Jupiter, accompanied by his eagle, welcomes a supplicating female figure seated on a cloud, presumably Cassiopeia herself, asking for her daughter to be spared. At the heart of the composition is Perseus, on Pegasus, flying through the sky and seizing Andromeda, who is naked and wearing her broken manacles. Around them is a glory of Cupids, celebrating the love between Perseus and Andromeda. Throughout the composition, small stars are visible. Most of the mythological figures in this scene — Perseus, Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and Pegasus — were later transformed into constellations.

This canvas was cropped on all sides, somewhat more at the top and bottom. Like the Lisbon and Los Angeles sketches, the Frick canvas also once had the ocher outline of the shape of the final ceiling, which must have been cropped to make the sketch into a salable painting. Remnants of ocher are visible on the sides under the frame.