Owl of Athena on the Union Building

I. Architect: The Union building at the University of Texas was designed and completed by Robert L. White and Paul Crete. Paul Crete was an architect from Lyon, France that dedicated his work to design many famous public buildings across the United States. In nineteen thirty, Paul Crete was hired by the University of Texas as a consulting architect for a construction plan at the University, including the construction of the Union building, and continued to work at the University until his death fifteen years later. Some of his most notable works at the University of Texas include the Library on campus, the Architecture building, the Union building, the Home Economics building, the Littlefield memorial, the Yount House, the Texas Memorial Museum, and many dormitories on campus. Comparatively, Robert L. White was an architect from in Cooper, Texas. In nineteen twenty-one, White finished his bachelor’s degree in architecture at the University of Texas, and then came back to the University of Texas nine years later to obtain his master’s degree in architecture. While White was at the University of Texas attending graduate school for architecture, he became the supervising architect at the University of Texas. During this time, White was able to plan and execute many of the large building projects at the University of Texas during that were completed during the nineteen thirties, until his resignation twenty-eight years later. Some of his most famous constructions on campus include the Main Building, Goldsmith Hall, the Texas Union, and the Hogg Auditorium. Both Paul Crete and Robert L. White were important figures in the construction of the Union building and in the construction of many other important buildings on campus at the University of Texas.

II. Date: The building of the Union building along with the image of the Owl of Athena was started in nineteen thirty-two and completed in 1933 by the architects Paul Phillipe Crete and Robert L. White.

III. Location: The image of the Owl of Athena is presented on the front of the Union building at the University of Texas above the word “Commons,” and can be viewed when standing and looking at the Union building from the West Mall area on campus. The Union building itself is located at the corner of Guadalupe and twenty-second street in the West Mall area of the University of Texas.

IV. Reason for Placement: The Union building was created to be a sort of “home away from home” for UT students by providing them with a place to relax and hang out with their friend and classmates. The Union building was also designed to be a place where students could enjoy meals together, and even have fun events like dances. The revenue obtained by funds from Texas and the University of Texas allowed the ideas of Crete and White to come alive. The construction of the Union building started nineteen thirty-two, and was completed just a year later in nineteen thirty-three. The construction of the Union building also included many decorative symbols that represent the University and Texas as a whole, and within these symbols lay the Owl of Athena which was added to represent the wisdom that is represented through the Greek goddess, Athena.

V. Description: The owl of Athena on the Union building is a stone sculpture embedded in the external wall of the Union building. The owl of Athena on the building is made from smooth limestone and rubble, which is the same material that was used to construct the Union building. The graphic of the Owl of Athena and the decorative symbols around it are in a square formation, with the owl of Athena situated below a Texas longhorn, and surrounded by other symbols representing Texas. The entire image is approximately two by two feet and is situated above the word “Commons” on the Union building.

In Greek myth, the goddess Athena is known as the goddess of wisdom, war, heroism, and crafts. Athena was conceived by Zeus, the god of the sky and thunder, and Metis, the goddess of wisdom and deep thought, but Athena’s birth was quite unusual. In order to prevent Metis from having a child that would be a threat to his power, Zeus swallowed Metis while she was pregnant with Athena. But this did not stop her birth, and Athena was instead born from the head of Zeus fully armored and ready for war. This detail relays the idea that Athena has the same intelligence and wisdom of the supreme ruler Zeus, making her a stronger goddess in myth. Athena is also closely associated with strategic skill in warfare and is commonly depicted next to heroes in myth who then typically become victorious when in her presence. The image of the owl is strongly associated with Athena which dates back to Athena and her role as a goddess in early Greek myth. In fact, one of Athena’s ancient epithets is Glaukopis, which symbolizes her role as a bright-eyed Owl Goddess. The name Glaukopis comes from the Grek word glaux, which means little owl. In myth, these under ten inch owls were sacred to Atehna and therefore account for the origins of her owl-eyed Glaukopis epithet. Some historians accounted for this association by describing a species of owl that had a strong presence in Athens during the era of ancient Greece. Being that Athena is the patron goddess of Athens, the owl species in Athens quickly and easily became a symbol for Athena herself. In Greek myth, the owl of Athena is also said to be kept on the shoulder of Athena and reveal truths of the world to her, and thus also represent the literal wisdom and knowledge of Athena in her role as a goddess of wisdom. Additionally, this association meant that even the mere sight of an owl before a battle in myth made Greek soldiers believe that Athena was blessing them for a victory in battle. The Owl of Athena displayed on the Union building at the University of Texas symbolizes that University of Texas values wisdom and the pursuit of it on campus. As mentioned before, the owl of Athena is a symbol associated with the tangible wisdom that is represented through the Greek goddess Athena. When viewing the image of the Owl of Athena on the Union building, one can see that the Owl of Athena is situated between the words “Arts” and “Sciences” revealing that obtaining wisdom in the arts and sciences is a priority at the University of Texas. Another aspect of the image of the Owl of Athena shows the owl sitting atop a pile of books, which is said to represent education at the University of Texas and the pursuit of knowledge through the education that the University provides. Additionally, the image of the Owl of Athena depicted on the Union building is accompanied by many images and symbols that represent the University of Texas and Texas as a state. These symbols around the Owl of Athena include a Jackrabbit, Rattlesnake, Roadrunner, Horned Toad, Cacti, and the mascot at the University of Texas, the Longhorn. Displaying these modern images and symbols of Texas along with the ancient image of the Owl of Athena demonstrates how the University uses a Greek mythological image to portray a message and a purpose for the University. The symbols associated with Texas represent the University as a whole, and the Owl of Athena lies within these symbols, representing the wisdom associated with Athena as a goddess. Tying in the images of Texas and of ancient Greek myth with the image of Athena the central point, shows that the University values intelligence and wisdom above everything else. By adding this decorative collaboration to the Union building, modern audiences can recognize a relationship between the symbolism of ancient Greek images and modern Texas images, showing that the meaning of Athena as the goddess of wisdom is still recognizable and used in modern institutions even thousands of years later.


“Athena Glaukopis.” The Obscure Goddess Online Dictionary. Accessed April 30,  2019. http://www.thaliatook.com/OGOD/glaukopis.html

“Athena: Greek Goddess of Wisdom and War.” Accessed April 24, 2019. https://greekgodsandgoddesses.net/goddesses/athena/

Buxton, Richard. “The Olympians: Power, Honour, Sexuality.” In The Complete World of Greek Mythology, 80. Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2004.

Crete, Paul Philippe. “An Inventory of his Drawings, Photographic Material, and Papers, 1930-1957.” Texas Archival Resources Online. Accessed April 20, 2019.


Hesiod. “Hesiod’s Theogony.” In Anthology of Classical Myth, edited by Stephen M. Trzaskoma, 156-157. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2016.

Homer. “Homeric Hymn to Athena.” In Anthology of Classical Myth, edited by Stephen M. Trzaskoma, 204-205. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2016.

Margaret C. Berry. Brick by Golden Brick: a History of Campus Buildings at the University of Texas at Austin.LBCo, 1993.

Todd A. Curtis. Classical Mythology in the Visual and Performing Arts: Classical Mythology on UT’s Campus. Top Hat, January 2018. https://app.tophat.com/e/989965/assigned/

“What Does the Owl of Athena Represent?” Reference. Accessed April 23, 2019. https://www.reference.com/?qo=undefined

White, Robert Leon. “An Inventory of Drawings and Papers, 1882-1998, undated.”Texas Archival Resources Online. Accessed April 20, 2019. https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utaaa/00011/aaa-00011.html

Written by Sophia Eggenberger


Venus and Adonis by Filippo Lauri

I. Artist: Venus and Adonis was painted by Filippo Lauri. Lauri lived from 1623-1694 in Italy, specifically in Rome. He was painting during the Baroque period, which is best described through opulence and grandeur. One thing that the art has in common during this Baroque period is that they involve drama. The drama can clearly be seen in Venus and Adonis because the work is meant to reflect the effects of love that can lead to despair. Lauri’s father was a Flemish landscape painter. Lauri studied painting under his father, then he studied under his brother, which led him to work for his brother-in-law. In 1654, Lauri became a member of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome. Lauri had many other well-known paints of Greek myth like Apollo Flaying Marsyas, but Lauri also had paintings regarding Christian ideals.

II. Date: There is not a definitive time that Venus and Adonis was created. However, it was believed to have been painted in 1671.

III. Location on Campus: Venus and Adonis can be found in the Blanton Museum. The painting can be specifically found in The Suida-Manning Collection. The Sudia-Manning Collection is a collection of Old Master paintings that was purchased by a family of art historians instead of people of grandeur like princes or merchants. The family would purchase pieces of art the same time that they would be studying the work. The collection contains 240 paintings and 390 drawings. The Sudia-Manning Collection has become one of the key collections for Old Master art because of the incredible size and pieces that have been accumulated through the Suida-Manning family. The collection was purchased and partially gifted to the University of Texas by Robert and Bertine Manning, Alessandra Manning Dolnier because they wanted to establish a legacy to pay homage to their parents and grandparents, while sharing this legacy to the rest of the world.

IV. Acquisition: Venus and Adonis was acquired by the Blanton Museum in 1999, making it the 361st piece to enter the collection. Venus and Adonis was placed on the UT campus for a plethora of reasons that help exemplify the overall themes of the entire museum. Firstly, the painting can fall into the theme of Time. Time within the Blanton Museum is meant to signify a flow time that the artist had to encapsulate within their work in innovative ways to carry on something of the past to current day viewers. Venus and Adonis exemplifies the theme of Time through Collapsing Time. The time within the painting has a distorted timeline, in that the painting does not just capture one moment within the story. Rather, the painting has aspects of multiple different scenes that may have occurred outside of the main event. For Venus and Adonis, this sense of collapsed time is highlighted there are many different scenes from the story portrayed in the painting like Adonis sitting under the myrtle tree (which is his mother, Myrrha, and this is described in the beginning of Book X of Metamorphoses), but Adonis is also is depicted with his spear, which will foreshadow his death by a boar in the end of the story. Plus, there are scenes in between those two events like Venus becoming infatuated with Adonis. It is clear to see that Lauri had used this painting to capture many parts of the myth from beginning to end. Therefore, there is a collapse of time because one scene cannot be explicitly described in the painting. Venus and Adonis also falls into the theme of The Art of Communication. This theme is meant to signify the different forms of expressing ideas through art whether it be in form of words or in form of painting. For Venus and Adonis, the painting falls under the subcategory of From Text to Image, which shows how artists have played with literature to give them inspiration for their pieces of work. The works of art can simply coincide with the original text or the art can also be opened to new interpretations of the artist and the viewer. Lauri’s work in Venus and Adonis follows along with Ovid’s telling of the story quite well. However, Lauri puts an emphasis on the Venus falling in love with Adonis to help build up the drama, which was a vital part of his work during the Baroque period. Lauri specifically adds Cupid striking Venus with an arrow. Although Cupid was alluded to as” the goddesses’ [Venus’] son” in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Cupid was not explicitly named. Therefore, the emphasis on Cupid within Lauri’s painting helps highlight the love that Venus is developing and the amount of infatuation that Venus has undergone. It is clear to see that Venus and Adonis exemplify some of the themes that can be seen throughout the Blanton Museum, thus making it the perfect piece to add to the collection.

V. Description: This painting is an oil painting on canvas. The size of the painting is 59 cm x 71.2 cm. The painting is framed in an intricately carved gold frame. The carvings on the frame have no known or distinct meaning, but it could be a sign of the opulence that Lauri was trying to exude during the Baroque period. The painting depicts Venus falling in love with Adonis, which can be found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book X. The two of them have a tragic love story in which Venus falls in love with Adonis. However, with every tragic love story the love must come to an end and that occurred when Adonis was killed by a boar while out hunting. Although in the painting, Adonis is not depicted being killed by a boar, there is foreshadowing of the event because Adonis is painted with a spear. Lauri follows the story of Venus and Adonis closely to what is depicted in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. However, Lauri puts a major emphasis on the drama surrounding the troubled love surrounding Venus and Adonis.

Venus and Adonis is meant to symbolize that although Venus (Aphrodite) maybe the goddess of love, that does not mean Venus is immune to her own powers. Venus was overcome with lust and love from Cupid’s arrow and that caused her to act out of her regular actions. Eros does not have a positive effect on people, rather it makes a person act irrationally out of love. This can be seen through Venus because she is a goddess going after a mortal male. However, the repercussions of love are something to consider as well. Once Venus is aware of Adonis’ death, she begins to mourn and turns Adonis’ blood into the anemone flower. Through Venus’ actions, we can see how greatly affected she is by his death, which shows that Venus is suffering the consequences of loving someone deeply just like mortals would. Venus may be a goddess, but the emotions she faces are like the ones that mortals face as well. Venus is not immune to the effects of her power and can be hurt just as much, if not more than mortals by the effects of love.

Some of the clear classical mythological elements that are present in Venus and Adonis are the it shows the interaction between a divine being and a mortal and shows the origin of some life on earth (etiological myth), which is a metamorphosis. It also exemplifies the idea that gods and goddesses can experience outside forces like human emotions. Firstly, the interaction of a divine figure and a mortal is clearly seen through the interactions of Venus, a goddess, and Adonis, a mortal. A lot of the times, the interactions between the two involves an aspect of love or lust, whether it be the deity vying for the mortal or vice versa. In this story, Venus has fallen in love with Adonis at the hands of Cupid. Another classical element that can be seen is the etiological idea of a myth exemplifying an origin of a form of life. Although this idea is not directly painted on Venus and Adonis, the idea of the etiological myth is foreshadowed through Adonis’ spear. The explanation for a certain aspect of nature is best seen through the classic idea of metamorphosis within Venus and Adonis. Because Adonis went out hunting, Adonis ran into a boar that he attempted to stab it with his spear (which he is depicted with in the painting). However, Adonis fails and ends up dying. The blood of Adonis is used by Venus to create a red flower, anemone, in his honor. So, in theory, Adonis has metamorphosized into nature, specifically the anemone flower. Venus and Adonis’ story is able to give an explanation as to how the anemone flower has come to be today. Lastly, another classical mythological element that can be seen through Venus and Adonis is the idea that deities can feel the emotions of mortals, even though they may be seen in a higher status. Gods and goddesses are not immune to emotions, even if their sphere of activity may encompass the emotions that are overtaking them. This is clearly seen through Venus because in the painting she is clearly in love with Adonis. Her love is exemplified in they way that Venus also dresses. Venus had dressed up like Artemis, the goddess of hunting, to grasp Adonis’ attention because he is a hunter. Venus’ actions as an act of the yearning love that she had for Adonis. Love is Venus’ sphere of activity; however, Venus was clearly not immune to her own sphere. So, there is a contradictory nature of the gods. This almost humanizes the gods to be more understanding of the mortals. It allows mortals to relate to the gods in one instance to get a bigger message or lesson of a myth. Within Venus and Adonis, the bigger message could be the idea that love is not always fair. The person who is loving whole-heartedly is also the one who gets hurt the most by the love because they have become so attached to the other person

Personally, I believe Venus and Adonis shows the doubled-edged sword of love. Before Adonis and Venus’ love story could have been created, it had to stem from the love story of Myrrha for her father, Cinyras. Myrrha has been overcome with love for her father, but it is not the type of love that a child and parent share, rather Myrrha had developed an unnatural desire to have her father be her lover. Myrrha ends up tricking her father into sleeping with her, but her father finds out and attempts to kill her. However, Myrrha escapes only to discover that she is pregnant. So, she prays to be punished for her actions (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Myrrha Transformed to a Tree). Myrrha is turned into a tree that Adonis is depicted sitting under in the painting. The double-edge sword of love is seen through Myrrha and Cinyras in that love can be so blinding that we would act out of character. This is seen through Myrrha. Myrrha is so blinded by the love that she has for her father that she is unable to think about the repercussions of her actions. Love has made her unwise and made her act out against the social norms to pursue an incest relationship. From an outsider’s point of view, it was clear to see that Myrrha’s actions were unthinkable to most people. However, once the audience can see the completely spell of love that Myrrha was under there is more understanding of why lines may have been blurred to Myrrha. Cinyras and Myrrha’s relations led to the creation of Adonis, their son. Adonis then becomes subject to the love of Venus. Adonis catches the eye of Venus and she becomes interested in Adonis. However, Venus’ attraction to Adonis is heighten by Cupid’s arrow, which is depicted in the painting. Venus had given Adonis advice to “keep away from all such savage animals,” which served as a warning for Adonis’ safety (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Adonis Transformed). However, Adonis does not listen to the advice and goes after a wild boar with his spear, which is foreshadowed in the painting. This leads to the death of Adonis, leaving Venus with immense grief over Adonis’ death. Love playing a double-edged sword in this instance is clearly seen through Venus. For one, Venus is the goddess of love, but is unable to control her own realm of activity as she is struck with love over Adonis. So, Venus is able to relate in Myrrha in a sense that both were acting out of their typical character under the spell of love. However, the bigger idea of love being a double-edged sword is the potential effects that are felt with love. For Venus, her love for Adonis could be seen as a happy, lustful time for Venus. There was a sense of a caring love too because Venus attempts to warn Adonis against harmful activities. Those who love the most will also be hurt the most. Adonis’ death serves to symbolize the idea of the magnitude of Venus’ love. Love may bring lust upon a person; however, when the lust is gone, reality sets in and that can cause a grief that is unimaginable by many. Therefore, Venus and Adonis is attempting to exaggerate the love that Venus has for Adonis to help further exaggerate the pain that Venus will later feel after Adonis’ death.


“Collapsing Time.” Blanton Museum of Art. June 15, 2017. Accessed April 24, 2019.       https://blantonmuseum.org/chapter/collapsing-time/.

“Filippo Lauri.” Wikipedia. January 19, 2019. Accessed April 24, 2019.                            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filippo_Lauri.

“From Text to Image.” Blanton Museum of Art. June 15, 2017. Accessed April 24, 2019.   https://blantonmuseum.org/chapter/from-text-to-image/.

Lou, Mary, and Shovova. “Exploring the Extravagance and Drama of Baroque Art and Architecture.” My Modern Met. March 23, 2018. Accessed April 24, 2019. https://mymodernmet.com/baroque- period/.

“OVID, METAMORPHOSES 10.” OVID, METAMORPHOSES 10 – Theoi Classical Texts Library. Accessed  April 24, 2019. https://www.theoi.com/Text/OvidMetamorphoses10.html#9.

“Suida-Manning Collection at the Blanton Museum.” The Magazine Antiques. January 26, 2017. Accessed April 24, 2019. http://www.themagazineantiques.com/article/old-masters-at-the-blanton/.

“Venus and Adonis · Blanton Museum of Art Collections.” Omeka RSS. Accessed April 24, 2019. http://utw10658.utweb.utexas.edu/items/show/2840.

By Emma Tran


Athena on the Main Building

I. Architect: The creation of this artwork is accredited to Paul Cret, who was the consulting architect responsible for the University of Texas Campus Master Plan and the design of the tower (Berry). Paul Cret was a French born architect who headed the architecture school at the University of Pennsylvania when he was hired to design the main building of the University of Texas campus (Nicar). Cret incorporated many aspects of Greek myth that held symbolic meaning for the university, including the head of Athena in order to accomplish his goal of making the building a meaningful and significant landmark at the University of Texas (Nicar).

II. Date: The Head of Athena was completed in 1937 along with the construction of the Main Building of the University of Texas, which it is located on (Berry).

III. Location: There are two identical heads of Athena that are both located on the Main Building. One head of Athena is located above the far left window and one is located above the far right window on the south side of the Main building.

The Main Building was constructed around the tower as a central library, and many classical symbols including the heads of Athena were placed on the building to encapsulate the values of higher education (Nicar). The head of Athena was included in design of the main building because in Greek myth, Athena is often associated with wisdom and democracy. Since the main building was constructed to be a library, the architect, Paul Cret, included Athena as a symbol of wisdom. In addition, Cret wanted to include elements of democracy on the campus in order to speak to the aspirations of the university and pay homage to America’s ancient Greek democratic origins (Nicar).

IV. Description: The sculptures of the Head of Athena were constructed from Bedford Indiana Limestone as was the rest of the Main Building (Berry). Athena is depicted from the neck up, with a solemn look on her face. She is looking straightforward as if she were looking at the capital building of Texas. She is wearing a cap with a star on it and there is a wreath around her head at the base of the cap. Additionally, she is surrounded by a spiral on each side that is partially covered with leaves.

The symbolic meaning of the head of Athena on the Main building of the University of Texas is that Athena is related to wisdom and democracy. The wisdom of Athena can be seen in the myths of her birth. In Hesiod’s Theogony, she was described as the daughter of Metis who was cunning intelligence, and Zeus who was king of the gods (Hesiod, Theogony, lines 891-892 in Anthology of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation). When Zeus was told by Gaia that Metis would have a son more powerful than he, he swallowed her while she was pregnant with Athena (Hesiod, Theogony, lines 893-905 in Anthology of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation). Athena was said to be equal to Zeus in wisdom and strength, and her mother Metis was also closely associated with intelligence and wisdom, thereby connecting Athena herself to wisdom (Atsma). By including Athena on the main building, Paul Cret connected the wisdom of Athena to the University of Texas. In this portrayal of Athena, her solemn look depicts her as wise and dignified like she is in the Greek myths associated with her. In addition to her connection to wisdom, Cret wanted the main building to have a sense of the democratic origins in Ancient Greece being that America was a modern democracy (Nicar). He did this by including classical elements such as the head of Athena because Athena was the patroness goddess of Athens, known for their democracy (Kennedy). In myth, Athena also encouraged law and order and was the Goddess of the Citadel, which meant that she controlled the fates of cities (Buxton pp. 79-80). In this depiction of Athena, she is facing the Capital building of Texas which may be due to her connection to democracy. By including Athena in this position of the Main Building, Cret connected the building and the university to a dignified democracy of Athens.


Trzaskoma, Stephen M. Anthology of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation.        Translations by Stephen M. Trzaskoma, R. Scott Smith, and Stephen Brunet. 2nd ed. Indianapolis/Cambridge, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2016.

Berry, Margaret Catherine. Brick by Golden Brick: A History of Campus Buildings at the      University of Texas at Austin: 1883-1992. Austin, TX: LBCo., 1993.

Buxton, R. G. A. The Complete World of Greek Mythology. London: Thames & Hudson,    2016.

Atsma, Aaron J. “ATHENA – Greek Goddess of Wisdom, War & Crafts.” Theoi Greek           Mythology. 2017. Accessed March 21, 2019.   https://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Athena.html.

Nicar, Jim. “How “Texan” Is the UT Tower?” The UT History Corner. March 23, 2013.          Accessed March 21, 2019.                                                                                          https://jimnicar.com/2013/03/23/how-texan-is-the-ut-tower/.

Nicar, Jim. “The Main Building Seals.” The UT History Corner. January 06, 2017.            Accessed March 21, 2019. https://jimnicar.com/2017/01/26/the-main-building-seals/.

Kennedy, Rebecca Futo. Athenas Justice: Athena, Athens and the Concept of Justice in    Greek Tragedy. New York: Peter Lang, 2009.

Written by Emma Wolfe

Erotes on Sutton Hall

I. Architect: The statuettes on Sutton Hall were created by the architect Cass Gilbert. He was the campus architect for the University of Texas from 1909-1922 and also built Battle Hall and the Woolworth building. He was heavily inspired by the Mediterranean Renaissance style and built both Battle and Sutton Hall in reflection of it.

II. Date: These statuettes were produced in the period between 1909 and 1922. It is unclear their specific use other than as décor fitting with Gilbert’s desired style. Sutton Hall was originally the Education Building when it was built so they may have been included as whimsical figures who symbolized the curiosity within education, although that is a hypothesis.

III. Location: They are located above the main entrance to Sutton Hall facing Guadalupe Street.

IV. Description: Decorative statuettes carved from cream limestone. On the outer edge of the window is an image of Eros followed by a griffin facing the center of the doorway where an open cockle shell is placed. The other side of the door has symmetrical figures.

I believe these statuettes are meant to symbolize the power of education and desire to learn. In Greek legends, Griffins represent power and strength. Philostratus notes how gold can be found in rocks in the north “which [Griffins] can quarry because of the strength of its beak” (Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana, 3.48). Thus, great physical strength is attributed to these legendary creatures. They are also considered to be guardians of the Hyperborean’s gold against creatures that wish to steal it. Pliny the Elder describes how “many authorities, the most distinguished being Herodotus [Greek historian C5th B.C.] and Aristeas of Proconnesus [Greek poet C7th B.C.], write that these people wage continual war with the [Griffins]…which the creatures guard and the Arimaspi try to take from them, both with remarkable covetousness” (Pliny the Elder, Natural Histories, 7.10). They are also commonly associated with Greek divinities. These creatures are often associated with the gods as helpers or underlings. There are various representation of gods riding Griffins in Greek art, including the existence of a “very famous [painting] . . . by Aregon the ‘Artemis Borne Aloft on a [Griffin]’” in the temple of Artemis Alpheionia (Strabo, Geography, 8.3.12). In addition, around the goddess Nemsis’ “throne flew a bird of vengeance, a [Griffin]” which goes “unbidden before the flying goddess” (Nonnus, Dionysiaca, 48. 395). Nemesis also “had harnessed racing [Griffins] under her bridle” and they were used to escort her around the world (Nonnus, Dionysiaca, 48. 449). Thus, Griffins are legendary creatures who are ridden by the Greek gods. The Griffins above the doorway appear to relate to the strength of knowledge and the power that it can give. The creature’s relation to the divine also relate to how the acquisition of knowledge can elevate mortals.

The shell and Erotes all relate to the goddess Aphrodite. I believe that they were put on the Education Building to show a desire for learning. This would not necessarily be traditional Eros but Eros in Greek mythos was not necessarily an only erotic concept. The shell relates to Aphrodite in a looser sense as it is not directly mentioned in literature but her association with the sea is. The goddess Aphrodite is said to have been born from the sea foam and the genitals of Ouranos which means that Aphrodite came to be associated with aspects of the sea and ocean (Hesiod, Theogony, 188). The shell comes not from literature but mainly from the visual arts where it is portrayed carrying her after birth and serving as her throne. Below are some pictures that show Aphrodite’s association with shells:

Cockle-shell throne of Aphrodite, Greco-Roman mosaic from Zeugma C1st-2nd A.D., Gaziantep Museum of Archaeology

Hermes, birth of Aphrodite, Himeros and Poseidon, Athenian red-figure pelike C4th B.C., Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki

Terracotta statuette of Aphrodite in a shell, 3rd century BC, Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich

All of these artistic representations show how Aphrodite was closely connected with cockerel and scallop shells and why they were considered sacred objects in her cult worship. Due to the shell’s significance to Aphrodite, the shell centered in the middle of the doorway could relate to the different forms of Eros that Aphrodite controls. Aphrodite although she is most closely tied to erotic love she is considered “the most powerful in helping men gain virtue and blessedness (Plato, Symposium, 3).  Furthermore, those that rejoice in her mature love “delight in … the more valiant and intelligent nature” (Plato, Symposium, 1). In this way, I believe the shell is supposed to symbolize a desire for knowledge and education.

The Erotes on either corner of the doorway serve a similar symbolic purpose. Aphrodite was considered to have a son named Eros who traditionally took the form of a nude, small child with wings. Later on, Eros developed into a group of Erotes who all reflected different attributes of love. In their association, “Aphrodite [is] the heavenly mother of Erotes” which explains how Erotes are supposedly representations of different aspects of passion (Pindar, Eulogies Fragment, 122). As a result, Eros the god and son of Aphrodite is usually associated with sexual pleasure but the different forms that Erotes take can differ from this representation, however, not often. In the use of Erotes on the door they could represent the child-like curiosity associated with learning or the power that Erotes themselves held as beings. Eros and the later Erotes, due to their child like appearance are described as acting like young, wild children (Alcman, Fragment 58). I believe their child-like nature in relation to Sutton Hall’s architecture is supposed to represent the child-like nature that comes with learning and educating oneself. In addition, to subscribing to a youthful nature Eros and the Erotes are also tied to a much more mature universal power. They, and Eros, are described as “keeper of the keys of heaven and earth, the air, and spreading seas…for thee all nature’s various realms obey, who rulest alone, with universal sway” (Orphic Hymn to Eros, 58). This writing expresses that they hold power over all things which relates to the primeval deity Eros who was born alongside Gaia and Tartaros (Hesiod, Theogony, 135). Although the child Eros is considered a different being than the primeval Eros they are connected through their spheres of influence. This shows how Eros the god and the concept allows for creation, often through procreation, but not solely. The Erotes on the corners are supposed to embody the passion and curiosity for learning that is fitting for an education building but I believe they also represent the power of creation and how knowledge can assist the act of creation.


Alcman. Fragment 58. Translated by David A. Campbell. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988.

Cockle-shell throne of Aphrodite. 1st-2nd AD. Mosaic. Gaziantep Museum of Archaeology, Gaziantep, https://www.theoi.com/Gallery/Z10.1.html.

Hesiod. Theogony. Translated by Stephen Trzaskoma, R. Scott Smith, and Stephen Brunet. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1954.

Hermes, birth of Aphrodite, Himeros and Poseidon. 4th BC. red-figure pelike. Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, https://www.theoi.com/Gallery/K10.2.html.

Nonnus. Dionysiaca. Translated by W. H. D. Rouse. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1940.

Orphic Hymn 58 to Eros. Translated by Thomas Taylor. 1792.

Philostratus. Life of Apollonius of Tyana. Translated by F. C. Conybeare. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1912.

Pindar. Eulogies Fragment 122. Translated by Sir E.J. Sandys. Portsmouth: William Heinemann, 1937.

Plato. Symposium. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. London: Oxford University Press, 1892.

Pliny the Elder. Natural Histories. Translated by H. Rackham. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1950.

Statuette of Aphrodite in a shell. 3rd century BC. Terracotta. Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/64/Terracotta_statuette_of_Aphrodite_in_a_shell%2C_3rd_century_BC_Staatliche_Antikensammlungen%2C_Munich_%288958060758%29.jpg.

Strabo. Geography. Translated by Horace Leonard Jones. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1932.

Written by Taylor Lindsey


Quos Ego [Neptune Calming the Tempest], after Raphael

I. Artist: The author of Quos Ego was Marcantonio Raimondi. Marcantonio was an engraver who was born close to Bologna, Italy in 1480 (Britannica 2019). He was highly skilled in his area of work, and this could possibly be credited to the person who trained him, Francia, who was a successful goldsmith as well as an extraordinary painter (Britannica 2019). Most of Raimondi’s best work was created when he started copying the works of Michaelangelo and Raphael (Britannica 2019). He was even fortunate enough to meet Raphael himself, who seemed to like Raimondi enough to insert him into his Explusion of Heliodorus (1513) (Britannica 2019). Raimondi’s connection to Raphael was his most important aspect when it came to his artwork. Some of Raimondi’s printings were Dream of Raphael (1507), The Climbers (1510), Massacre of the Innocents (1512-1513), and The Judgement of Paris (1510 – 1520). While many of Marcantonio Raimondi’s engravings were recreations, there was no doubt that the man was a wonderful artist.

II. Date: Raimondi created Quos Ego from approximately 1515 to 1516 (Kleinbub 2012). Because artwork can take time to be made, there needed to be a year or so between the start and the finish.

III. Location: Quos Ego is just one of the many mythological artworks located in the Blanton Museum.

IV. Reason for Acquisition: Raimondi’s printing was introduced to the Blanton Museum in 1985. While I was able to find a date to when the item was added to the Museum, I could not find an exact reason to why the University of Texas decided to add this item to campus. However, I did find some ideas. According to austintexas.org, “the Blanton offers thought provoking, visually arresting, and personally moving encounters with art (Blanton).” Looking at Quos Ego, any viewer would feel all of these emotions. Thus, this explains why the UT may have decided to include this artwork on campus. Also, because Raimondi as well as Raphael were both involved with saving the Roman artwork, maybe UT thought that would be a great idea to keep that tradition going. However, all of this is only pure speculation, and none of this is exact conclusive evidence stating why Quos Ego is on campus.

V. Description: Quos Ego is a print on paper. Raimondi engraved all of the nine images. The height of artwork is 42.2 cm, and the width is 32.6 cm (Object). Also, there are five sentences inscribed on the engraving that read AEOLVS IMMITTIT VENTOS IVN ONE PRECANTE, TROLANQSO VAGOS LIBYCAS EXPELLIT IM ORAS, CVI VENVS ASCANII SVB IMAGINE MITTIT AMOREM, SOLATVRVENEREM DICTIS PATER IPSE DOLENTEM, and AENEAM RECIPIT PVI CHRA CARTHAGINE DIDO. 

Marcantonio Raimondi’s engraving the Quos Ego contains ten images all coming from book 1 of Virgil’s Each image describes a certain event that occurred during the epic poem. The first, and most central image, describes Neptune calming the storm so Aeneas can get past safely (Virgil 1983, p. 8, lines 133-152; Kleinbub 2012). Aeolus, the controller of the winds, was commanded by Juno to go after Aeneas because he is the son of Venus (Virgil 1983, p. 5-6, lines 65-76; Kleinbub 2012). The image in the top left corner describes the moment Juno tells Aeolus what he must do.  The top round image, right above the central image, shows Venus begging Jupiter to save Aeneas (Virgil 1983, p.11 -12, lines 235-248; Kleinbub 2012). Jupiter responds by sending Hermes to help out and letting Venus know that Aeneas’ sons will rule in the future (Virgil 1983, p.12, lines 260 – 264).  The upper right picture describes the moment when Venus sends Cupid to support Aeneas (Virgil 1983, p.28, lines 685 – 690; Kleinbub 2012). As we have seen, the mythological character Venus, plays a huge role in Virgil’s Aeneid.  The two images to the right of the central Neptune print we see the Trojans in the throne room of Dido (upper image), and Dido escorting Aeneas and his men to the banquet (Virgil 1983, p.26 and p.28, lines 635 and lines 696-697; Kleinbub 2012). The bottom right image describes the feast of Dido, Aeneas, and Ascanius who is actually disguised as Cupid (Virgil 1983, p. 28-30, lines 699-756; Kleinbub 2012). The two left images explore the moment right after the storm when Aeneas is talking to all of the men who have survived (Upper Image), and Aeneas talking to his mother (Virgil 1983, p.10 and p.14, lines 202-217 and lines 313-316; Kleinbub 2012). The bottom left and last image looks at the moment when Aeneas and Achates explore the temple of Juno (Virgil 1983, p.28, lines 699-700; Kleinbub 2012). During this moment, they are looking at all of the paintings.  Obviously, there is a lot of meaning that goes into the Quos Ego. The significance as well as the symbolic meaning of Raimondi’s engraving was to describe events that took place in the book 1 of the Aeneid by Virgil. Christian Kleinkub, a specialist in Italian Renaissance art, suggests that the Quos Ego “elevated verses of Virgil’s poetry to their ennobled equivalents in black line” and “recovered terms of Roman art (Kleinbub 2012, p.287, lines 8-10).” This piece of artwork allows viewers to understand the importance of Roman art and how influential it was on art in general. Although saying piece of artwork is a little bit of understatement because the Quos Ego seems to be more of a collection rather than one single piece of art due to the numerous images. As a viewer, there is numerous amounts of mythological elements that can be observed from the images. Neptune, Jupiter, Juno, Venus, Cupid, and Mercury were all mentioned in the some of these images. From Greek and Roman mythology, all of these are important gods and goddess that play huge roles throughout many other myths. Also, there is Aeneas who is connected all the way back to the line of Hector. Then, lastly, Dido who is the queen of Carthage, and is a very important female figure in Greek and Roman mythology.  Also, one thing yet to be mentioned is the twelve zodiac signs that surround the round image of Jupiter, Mercury, and Venus. This is extremely unique because as the Earth would revolve around the stars each year, there were constellations that would show up and each were named after a god or goddess (Myths, lines 1-11) . So, the meaning of the zodiac signs is really important because they add even more mythological elements to Raimondi’s engraving.  Lastly, while I was never able to find the true translations of the five inscriptions, my TA, William Farris, managed to assist me in the translations of the Latin sayings. As mention before, the top left inscription reads, AEOLVS IMMITTIT VENTOS IVN ONE PRECANTE. This implies that Aeolus is sending the winds while Juno demands it (Farris 2019).  The top right sentence reads, SOLATVRVENEREM DICTIS PATER IPSE DOLENTEM. This means that Jupiter is caring for Venus as she is grieving through her words (Farris 2019). The bottom left reads, TROLANQSO VAGOS LIBYCAS EXPELLIT IM ORAS, and this is connected to the last one because it explains that Jupiter is expelling the soldiers onto the Libyan shores (Farris 2019). The reason these are connected is since Venus is so worried about her son Jupiter knows he must save them somehow. The bottom right inscription interprets, AENEAM RECIPIT PVI CHRA CARTHAGINE. This translates to, “Beautiful Dido receives Aeneas in Carthage (Farris 2019).” Lastly, the very bottom explains, CVI VENVS ASCANII SVB IMAGINE MITTIT AMOREM, and this is describing the moment Venus sends Cupid disguised as Aeneas’ son (Farris 2019). Overall, all of these inscriptions connect to some of the paintings by captioning them. In turn, the whole artwork explains the events that occurred in book 1 of Virgil’s Aeneid.


Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. 2019. “Marcantonio Raimondi.” Encyclopoedia Britannica, Encyclopaedia Britannica.  https://www.britannica.com/biography/Marcantonio-Raimondi

Christian K. Kleinbub. 2012. Raphael’s Quos Ego: forgotten document of the Renaissance paragone, Word & Image,28:3, 287-301, DOI: 10.1080/02666286.2012.724571

“Blanton Museum of Art.” Visit Austin, TX, www.austintexas.org/listings/blanton-museum-of-art/1580/.

“Object Results.” Blanton Museum of Art Online Collections Database, collection.blantonmuseum.org/Obj15?sid=108193&x=2062200.

“Myths of the Greek Zodiac.” Myths of the Greek Zodiac, https://www.igreekmythology.com/greek-zodiac.html

Virgil. The Aeneid. Translated by Robert Fitzgerald. 1983. United States, New York: Random House

Farris, William. 2019. Literal Translation. Quos Ego [Neptune Calming the Tempest], after Raphael. By Marcantionio Raimondi

Written By: Jason “Ky” Hoover