CANCELLED – EXPLORE UT 3/7/2020: Greek and Roman Myth on UT Campus Tours

Information about the Tour

The tour will depart from Waggener Hall (the side facing the Tower). The tour will last approximately one hour. The first tour will be at 11:00 am with subsequent tours beginning on the hour up to 2:00 pm. Please be aware that the walk will be a little less than a mile long and we will be walking up and down steps. You’re welcome to leave the tour at any time you see fit. The tour will end at the statue of Diana of the Chase. A Google map of the tour and sites can be found here.


Google map for Waggener Hall can be found here.

Our tour begins in front of Waggener Hall (the side facing the Tower). Waggener Hall was named after the University’s first President, Leslie Waggener. The building was designed by Paul Cret, and it was constructed in 1931. Constructed out of white limestone, multi-colored brick, and red-tile roof, Waggener blends with the other Mediterranean Renaissance-style buildings that Cret designed.

Photo by Marsha Miller/The University of Texas at Austin


Although there are numerous classical architectural features on Waggener Hall, the 26 medallions at the top of the building do not pay homage to the Greek and Roman world. These medallions represent the chief exports of Texas at the time of its construction (e.g. cotton, oil, cattle, lumber, etc.). These symbols reveal that Waggener hall was originally designed to house the School of Business Administration. Waggener Hall is now home to the Department of Classics, which is where UT students learn to read Greek and Latin, study Greco-Roman history, and learn about archaeology and ancient scripts. The Department of Classics’ main administrative office is located in Room 123 on the first floor. Next to the office is the Classics Lounge, which hosts department meetings and colloquia. The ground floor of Waggener Hall houses the Classics Library and its annex, the Visual Resources Collection, the Institute of Classical Archaeology, and the office of the Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory.

A history of Waggener Hall can be found here.


Littlefield Fountain

Google map for Littlefield Fountain can be found here.

Between the South Mall and W. 21st street stands the iconic Littlefield Fountain. Since its completion in 1933, Littlefield Fountain has been the most widely recognized statuary on UT’s campus. It is a powerful amalgamation of Greek iconography that have been appropriated to create a World War I monument. It was carried out by Pompeo Coppini, an Italian-born sculptor living in San Antonio.  He depicted Columbia, the symbol of the American spirit, standing on the bow of a ship being pulled by three sea horses. Behind her are two soldiers one representing the Army and the other the Navy.  By depicting Columbia traveling victoriously across the waters in her defense of liberty, Coppini intended the sculpture to create an image of a strong, unified America.


The winged Columbia standing with arms raised up borrows from the iconography of the Greek goddess of victory, Nike. In Greek vase paintings, Nike is depicted driving the battle chariot for Zeus in the Gigantomachy, the war between the Olympians and the Giants. In myth, Nike is famous for siding with Zeus and the Olympians in their victorious war against the previous generations of gods known as the Titans. Another classical influence for Coppini’s Columbia standing on the eagle prow of a ship is perhaps the famous Hellenistic sculpture called the Nike of Samothrace, whose Nike also appears to be standing on the prow of a ship. Instead of holding a phiale (a libation bowl), Columbia is depicted holding the torch of liberty in her right hand and the palms of peace in her left hand.


The Mermen in the fountain are anthropomorphic figures which are controlling sea horses, known as Hippocampi (Gr. Hippo = horse + campi = sea monsters). In ancient Greek and Roman art, the hippocampi were traditionally depicted as half horse/half fish creatures pulling the chariot of the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon. Instead of the horses which pull the quadriga of Nike, Coppini has replaced them with hippocampi to emphasize the discovery of America and the United States’ power being via the sea.

There are numerous inscriptions on the monument. On the left side, the ship is inscribed with “Columbia – November XI MDCCCCXVIII.” The Roman numerals “XI MDCCCCXVIII” stand for November 11, 1918, which marks the end of World War I. On the right side, the ship is  inscribed with “Columbia – April MD CCCCXVII”,  April 1917, which marks the date when the United States entered World War I.



Columbia faces the statue of Lady Liberty on top of the Texas State Capitol, which seems to emphasize UT’s relationship to the government of Texas. Inscribed in the limestone flanking the backside of the statue are the words of the famous Roman statesman, Cicero (Philip., 14.12), written in Latin: “Brevis a natura nobis vita data est, at memoria bene redditae vitae sempiturna,” which is translated, “A short life has been given to us by nature, but the memory of a life honorably offered is everlasting.”

A more detailed account of the history of Littlefield Fountain can be found here.

The Main Building (also known as ‘The Tower’)

Location of the Main Building on campus can be found here via Google Maps.

UT’s Main Building is full of symbols paying homage to the Greco-Roman world.

The inscription on the Main Building beneath the Tower, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”, comes from an English translation of the Greek in the Gospel of John 8:32 (καὶ γνώσεσθε τὴν ἀλήθειαν, καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια ἐλευθερώσει ὑμᾶς). The words are attributed to Jesus Christ, when he was explaining that if one were to live according to his words that person would become his disciple. The ‘truth’ Jesus is referring to in this passage appears to be the revelation of who he is.  According to the context of this passage in the Gospel of John, the ‘freedom’ that this truth brings is salvation from death and the slavery to sin that Jesus is offering to those who follow his teachings. Taken in the context of the iconography of the Tower and Main Building, the ‘truth’ spoken of in this passage from the Bible has been appropriated to mean ‘knowledge’ and ‘truth’ in the general context of academic pursuits. The reinterpretation of this biblical passage is reinforced by the academic iconography that adorns the Main Building, namely the ancient alphabets (Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Phoenician, Hebrew, Greek and Latin alphabets) on the Tower and the seals of famous universities .

The symbolism of the Greek temple-like structure at the top of the UT Tower is often overlooked by the casual passerby. The location of the Greek temple-like structure at the top of the Tower suggests that the great intellectual achievements of Greco-Roman world are something the University of Texas aspires to.  In some respects, the Tower itself looks like some of the modern artistic interpretations of the appearance of the famous Pharos Lighthouse of Alexandria, which stood guarding the city of Hellenistic Alexandria and its world-renowned library. The Tower’s resemblance to the Pharos Lighthouse would be rather fitting given the Tower was originally intended to house the university’s main library.

Battle Hall

Location of Battle Hall on campus can be found here via Google Maps.

Battle hall is named after the  Professor of Classics and 6th President of the University of Texas. William James Battle served as President of UT from 1914-1916. He joined the university in 1893 as an Associate Professor of Greek. Some of the plasters now displayed in the William J. Battle Collection of Plaster Casts were placed along the walls of the auditorium he would lecture in, which is why this lecture hall was known as “The Greek Room.” In 1908, Battle became the Dean of the College of Arts. He became the President of the UT in 1914. After serving a rather tumultuous presidency that even threatened his position as President, Battle left UT to teach at the University of Cincinnati. He later returned to UT in 1920 as Professor of Classical Languages.  Some of his most indelible influences on the university were while he was Chairman of the Faculty Building Committee, a role he served for nearly three decades until 1948. Battle’s profound influence on UT’s campus is evident to this day, most notably the design and symbolism of the Main Building and its Tower, which was spearheaded by Battle.  Some of Battle’s other noteworthy contributions to the university were the foundation of the University COOP (1898) and the design of the university’s seal (1901). Additional information on William Battle can be found via the  Texas State Historical Association.


Located beside the Tower, Battle Hall is quite conspicuous due to its ornate facade richly adorned with colorful symbols. This is particularly evident around the windowed balconies on the building.






If you look closely at the repeated images, around the windows you will observe the Roman god Janus. Janus is an appropriate image for doors since, for Romans, he is a god of beginnings/end, transitions, and doorways. He was commonly depicted as a two-faced god who looks to the past and the future.  Janus was seen as presiding over war and peace, which can be observed with the function of the doors of his temple in Rome. These temple doors were open during times of war and closed during times of peace. Janus is conventionally associated with the month we call January, which derives its name from the Latin word for doorway, ianua. January is symbolically the doorway to a New Year since its inclusion as the first month of the year dating back to the Julian Calendar, which was established on January 1st 45 BC.

Alternating with the symbol of Janus is the helmeted head of Athena. Here again Athena’s iconography is used to indicate that Battle Hall is a place of acquiring wisdom. Coupled with the head of Athena, the head of Janus suggests that this is a place of transition assumedly through the acquisition of knowledge.

Above each of the windowed balconies on Battle Hall are a series of medallions with images representing the signs of the Zodiac. It is important to bear in mind that knowledge of the Zodiac signs was not connected with the kind of mundane prophetic statements associated with reading one’s horoscope.  For centuries, the Zodiac was understood as the movement of different constellations of stars whose position in the night sky indicated the passage of time and was used as a means of navigating. Knowledge of these constellations was also a fundamental part of medical education from the inception of medical universities in Italy. Greek myths were often associated with these constellations.

In some Greek constellation myths, Sagittarius is said to represent the centaur Chiron. During Hercules’ battle with a group of unruly centaurs, Chiron was said to have been accidentally hit by one of Hercules’ errant arrows. The arrow, which had been dipped in the poisonous blood of the Lernean Hydra, caused incurable suffering to Chiron. Unfortunately for Chiron, he was immortal making him unable to find release in death. Therefore, Chiron offered himself as a substitute for Prometheus, who had been punished by Zeus for his disobedience of giving fire to mortals (Prometheus was chained to a rock in Tartarus where he was constantly tormented by an eagle that daily consumed his liver). In recognition for Chiron’s sacrifice, Zeus honored Chiron by placing him in the stars.


Lady Liberty/Athena on Main Building

UT’s Main Building is full of symbols paying homage to the Greco-Roman world. The figure above the window resembles Athena (Roman name Minerva). It is often identified as Lady Liberty (of Texas). This interpretation is partially based on the single star above her head, which suggests that she is associated with the Lone Star State. Lady Liberty is a personification of freedom commonly seen in iconography for the American Revolution. Lady Liberty is an abstraction of the goddess Athena, and therefore, the two figures often bear a striking resemblance to each other in artwork. This would make sense considering Athena was viewed as the patroness of the democratic government of Athens. And the martial nature of Athena is also evident in the depictions of Lady Liberty’s participation in democratic revolutions such as the image of Lady Liberty stamping out tyranny in The Apotheosis of George Washington in the rotunda of the United States Capitol Building.

Athena’s Owl on the Union Building

Location of the Union on campus via Google Maps.

In Greek iconography, the owl is an attribute of the goddess of wisdom, Athena (Minerva to the Romans). Subsequently, it is commonly used as a symbol of knowledge and wisdom in the European tradition. The owl of Athena at the Union (Commons) is situated among a number of symbols  germane to the state of Texas (i.e. Jackrabbit, Rattlesnake, Roadrunner, Horned Toad, Cacti, and the Longhorn). Athena’s owl being situated between the words “Arts” and “Sciences” suggests that the acquisition of wisdom is the element that unifies the arts and sciences at the UT.


Greek Masks of Comedy, Tragedy, and Satyr

Location of Hogg Memorial Auditorium on campus can be found here via Google Maps.

Located behind the Tower and the Union is the Hogg Memorial Auditorium. The Hogg Memorial Auditorium was designed by the famed French architect Paul Cret, who also was responsible for the design of the Tower. Upon its completion in 1933, the building became the first theater on the school’s campus. The auditorium was named after James Stephen Hogg, the first native-born Governor of Texas. Information about the Hogg Memorial Auditorium’s rich history can be found here.

Greek theater consisted of three different dramatic genres: tragedy, satyr, and comedy. All three of these dramatic genres are represented by the three different personas/dramatic masks on the facade of the Hogg Memorial Auditorium. To get an appreciation for some of the basic differences between ancient Greek and modern dramas, a brief description of Greek dramatic performances has been provided in the following:

The most important presentations of tragedy at Athens took place once a year as part of a competition at the city’s main festival in honor of the god Dionysus. For this festival, one of Athens’ magistrates chose three playwrights to present four plays each. Three were tragedies and one a satyr play, the latter so named because it featured actors portraying the half-human, half-animal (horse or goat) creatures called satyrs. Satyr plays presented versions of the solemn stories of tragedy that were infused with humor and even farce. A board of citizen judges awarded first, second, and third prizes to the competing playwrights at the end of the festival. The performance of Athenian tragedies bore little resemblance to conventional modern theater productions. They took place during the daytime in an outdoor theater sacred to Dionysus, built into the slope of the southern hillside of Athens’ Acropolis. This theater of Dionysus held around 14,000 spectators overlooking an open, circular area in front of a slightly raised stage platform. To ensure fairness in the competition, all tragedies were required to have the same size cast, all of whom were men: three actors to play the speaking roles of all male and female characters and fifteen chorus members. Although the chorus’ leader sometimes engaged in dialogue with the actors, the chorus primarily performed songs and dances in the circular area in front of the stage, called the orchestra (“dancing area”). Since all the actors’ lines were in verse with special rhythms, the musical aspect of the chorus’ role enhanced the overall poetic nature of Athenian tragedy.

– Thomas R. Martin, An Overview of Classical Greek History from Mycenae to Alexander


Although Greek drama, particularly tragedies, were often set in the heroic world of Greek myth, they were used as a way of investigating contemporary Greek issues. Many of the narratives of Greek myth that are preserved in the writings of mythographers are based on the dramatic tellings of Greek myths by Athenian tragedians, such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. In Greek myth, the dramatic arts of poetry, music, and dance were said to be inspired by female deities called Muses. The Muses were described as the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory). Overtime, the different forms of poetry, music, and drama became associated with specific Muses. The Muse for tragedy was called Melpomene and the Muse for comedy was called Thalia.

Greek comedies generally had far less to do with myth than the genres of Greek tragedy and satyr. The early Greek comedies were mainly satirical, mocking political figures and people of importance for their vanity and foolishness. Our primary example of comedy is from the playwright Aristophanes. One the few examples of Greek comedies with an extended treatment of characters in Greek myth is Aristophanes’ Frogs. Frogs tells the story of how the god Dionysus travels to the underworld to bring the tragedian Euripides back from the dead because of the poor quality of Athens’ living tragedians. The potential for irreverent depictions of the gods can be observed in the character of the god Dionysus, whose behavior and numerous errors along the way to the home of Hades provide the primary source of humor in this comedy.

A ‘satyr’ was the term for a mythical creature associated with Dionysus. It was also the term used for a short burlesque play performed after a series of three tragic plays. The satyr play kept with the general theme of the three tragedies by poking fun at the plight of the characters in the series of tragedies. In keeping with the uncivilized nature of the mythical creature also called a satyr, actors in these plays were described as wearing large phalli to create a comic effect. The fact that the Hogg Auditorium has included the face of a satyr is highly unusual since most modern theaters only depict the Greek dramatic masks for comedy and tragedy when paying homage to their classical foundations.


Diana of the Chase

Location of this statue can in Google Maps.

Tucked away in the honors quadrangle between Blanton, Littlefield, Andrews, and Carothers dormitories, stands a statue of the Greek goddess of the hunt, Artemis (Diana to the Romans). The statue was originally installed by William Battle in a niche in the library in Battle Hall. Later, it was moved to its current location among the honors dorms. Given Diana’s mythical association as a protector of young women, the statue’s subject matter was probably considered appropriate for it to be located next to the all-female dormitories that enclosed the quadrangle.

This hidden treasure of the university was created by sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington. Anna Hyatt Huntington’s Diana of the Chase was first modeled in 1922. As legend has it, an 18-year-old Bette Davis posed for this statue. Diana of the Chase has been cast many times, appearing at institutions around the world such as Columbia University in New York City, Audubon Park in New Orleans, Palacio de Bellas Artes in Havana, Cuba, Jardin des Lices in Blois, France, and the Jardin Fuente de Diana in Madrid, Spain. UT’s statue is from a 1927 casting.  Anna Hyatt Huntington’s Diana of the Chase represents her long-term engagement with outdoor statuary that often focused on two strong female figures, Joan of Arc and Diana. Diana of the Chase elegantly depicts a partially nude Diana pointing her bow toward the heavens with a hunting dog eagerly jumping upward.

In some ways, the statue is a striking departure from the Greco-Roman statues of Artemis/Diana, which typically depict Artemis as a young woman clothed in a short dress holding a bow in hand and often accompanied by a stag deer. Perhaps Huntington’s choice to depict Artemis naked with a hunting dog is meant to remind one of the Greek myth of the death of Actaeon. According to Apollodorus (3.30 ff), while hunting with his dogs, Actaeon happened upon Artemis bathing. The insult of being seen naked by a mortal male could be construed as a threat to Artemis’ virginity, which she vigorously protected.  Artemis punished Actaeon by changing him into a deer and having his dogs tear him apart. Taken in this context, the naked Artemis in UT’s quadrangle is a fearful image for any male who may have wandered into this ‘sacred space.’ The upward aim of Artemis’ bow is another departure from classical iconography. Perhaps Huntington is suggesting that Artemis’ heavenward aim points to the heights women can and should aspire to. Or perhaps, Artemis’ upward bow is aimed at Zeus, and thereby symbolizing a female rejection of patriarchal rule in general.

Battle Cast of the Dedication by Cheramyes to Hera of Samos

I. Artist: The creator (sculptor) of the statue of Hera of Samos is unknown – the Blanton museum lists the creator as “Anonymous”. The inscription on the dress of the statue reads “Cheramyes dedicated me, a statue of Hera.” This implies that Cheramyes, an Greek aristocrat from Ionia, was the one who commissioned this piece as a monument to the
Greek goddess.

II. Date: This sculpture (a Battle cast made from the original sculpture discovered on the Greek island of Samos) was reproduced in the 19th century. The Battle casts were
created by the Caproni Brothers and August Gerber, who were based in Boston and Cologne respectively. They had a reputation for creating the most authentic casts at the time. The original sculpture was created between 570 – 560 BCE, and it is aptly named, “Dedication by Cheramyes to Hera of Samos”.

III. Location: This Battle Cast was found in the Blanton Museum of Art on the campus of UT Austin.

IV. Acquisition: William J. Battle, a professor at UT starting in 1893 (and the 6th President of the University), felt it was important to teach students about the importance of Greek
artwork. Thus, from 1894 to 1923, a collection of over a hundred plaster casts (thirty
were later lost or destroyed) were commissioned to be displayed on UT campus. As to this cast, it was probably included in Battle collection due to Samos’ prominence as the mythological birthplace of Hera and because it is a good example of a Kore type of sculpture.

V. Description: The cast is approximately 76 inches tall, and spans 19 inches in both width and depth. According to the Blanton Museum directory, its medium is a painted plaster cast. The original sculpture is part of the Louvre Museum in Paris. It is identified as a Kore sculpture. Kore-type sculpture (the female counterpart to the male Kouros-type sculptures) is the typical form for free standing statues of gods and humans during the Greek Archaic period. They are statues of young females who are fully clothed and stand erect with their feet together, or with one foot slightly advanced in front of the right. The arms of this type of sculpture are either straight down at the sides, or in many cases, one arm is elevated across the front of the body or extended out holding an object.

This sculpture’s relationship to classical mythology stems from where it was discovered. Hera, the queen of the Olympians, sister and spouse to Zeus, was commonly known as the goddess of marriage and child-birth. Although accounts vary, many have listed her birthplace as being the island of Samos, a powerful Ionian city-state. The inhabitants of the island formed a cult around Hera, and built a temple in honor of her known as the Heraion of Samos. The temple was built in at a architecturally challenging location near a swamp. In Greek myth, it is claimed that Hera was born on the banks of the river near the temple, which would further explain the choice of location. Additionally, Samos was seen in some accounts to be the site of her marriage to Zeus, next to the same river (the Imbrasos) that the temple was built.

A number of ancient Greek historians and geographers such as Pausanias (in his Description of Greece), Herodotus, and Strabo mention Samos specifically with the intent of describing the Heraion – “ Some say that the sanctuary of Hera in Samos was established by those who sailed in the Argo, and that these brought the image from Argos. But the Samians themselves hold that the goddess was born in the island by the side of the river Imbrasas under the willow that even in my time grew in the Heraion.” (Pausanias, Description of Greece, 7.4.4). According to Pausanias, only women who were priests were allowed to see the sculptures and recreations of Hera at the temple – “At Aigion [in Akhiyan] you find a temple of Athena and a grove of Hera . . . the image of Hera may be seen by nobody except the woman who happens to hold the office of priestess to the goddess” (Pausanias, Description of Greece, 7.23.9).

In relation to the sculpture dedicated by Cheramyes, it is hypothesized that the
sculpture was of a young woman that “held the key to the temple of Hera in her hand”,
due to part of the metal still being visible despite the hand itself being ruined. This
suggests that the sculpture was most likely symbolically a female cult servant of Hera at
Heraion, which was mentioned by Pausanias. This interpretation may be supported by the
elaborate clothing worn by the figure – the chiton tunic, the sash worn around the waist
(himation), and the veil (epiblema), which all reflect Ionian traditions and seem
likely to be worn by an attendant of the goddess. Sculptures representing clothed
girls in their adolescence, called Kore, were extremely popular in Ancient Greek art,
especially in the Archaic period – several of these statues were found in the Heraion
alone, dedicated by Cheramyes.

Overall, the mythological and symbolic meanings of this sculpture are intertwined with Samos and its association with Hera as her birthplace, place of marriage, and religious cult site. Many of the physical aspects of the sculpture (such as the key to the Heraion and the types of clothing worn) could be religious elements, and the dedication by Cheramyes on the piece solidifies the significance of Samos to Hera as a site of celebration of the goddess.


Beck, David. “Sanctuary of Hera, Samos.” Classics and Ancient History. January 29, 2015.
Accessed April 22, 2019. .

“Dedication by Cheramyes to Hera of Samos – Anonymous.” Blanton Museum of Art Online Collections Database. Accessed April 22, 2019. .

Elderkin, G. W. “The Marriage of Zeus and Hera and Its Symbol.” American Journal of
Archaeology 41, no. 3 (1937): 424-35. doi:10.2307/498508.

“HERA – Greek Goddess of Marriage, Queen of the Gods.” Theoi Greek Mythology. Accessed April 23, 2019. .

“HERA CULT 2.” HERA CULT 2 – Ancient Greek Religion. Accessed April 26, 2019. .

“Heraion Sanctuary in Samos Island.” Greeka. Accessed April 25, 2019.

Pausanias, trans. W. H. S. Jones, Henry Arderne Ormerod, and R. E. Wycherley. 1918. Pausanias Description of Greece. London: W. Heinemann.

“Work Kore from the Cheramyes Group.” Kore from the Cheramyes Group, Louvre Museum, Paris. Accessed April 26, 2019.

Written by Ashwin Kudva

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.


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“Athena: Greek Goddess of Wisdom and War.” Accessed April 24, 2019.

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.

“What Does the Owl of Athena Represent?” Reference. Accessed April 23, 2019.

White, Robert Leon. “An Inventory of Drawings and Papers, 1882-1998, undated.”Texas Archival Resources Online. Accessed April 20, 2019.

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.

“Filippo Lauri.” Wikipedia. January 19, 2019. Accessed April 24, 2019.                  

“From Text to Image.” Blanton Museum of Art. June 15, 2017. Accessed April 24, 2019.

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

“OVID, METAMORPHOSES 10.” OVID, METAMORPHOSES 10 – Theoi Classical Texts Library. Accessed  April 24, 2019.

“Suida-Manning Collection at the Blanton Museum.” The Magazine Antiques. January 26, 2017. Accessed April 24, 2019.

“Venus and Adonis · Blanton Museum of Art Collections.” Omeka RSS. Accessed April 24, 2019.

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.

Nicar, Jim. “How “Texan” Is the UT Tower?” The UT History Corner. March 23, 2013.          Accessed March 21, 2019.                                                                                

Nicar, Jim. “The Main Building Seals.” The UT History Corner. January 06, 2017.            Accessed March 21, 2019.

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,

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,

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,

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, “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.

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

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“Myths of the Greek Zodiac.” Myths of the Greek Zodiac,

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

Chelone Transforming into a Turtle by Filippo Lauri

I. Artist: Filippo Lauri, born in 17th century Rome, was an artistic protégé who followed in the footsteps of his brother (Bryan, 1889, 25-26). Although having painted a small number of altar-pieces for churches, his most notable works involved those revolving around myth (Bryan, 1889, 25-26). Some important pieces comparable to those we have studied this year include “The Punishment of Marsyas,” “Venus and Adonis,” and “The Rape of Europa” among others (Bryan, 1889, 25-26). Lauri was also known for painting images that were housed in palaces around Rome (Blanton Museum of Art Collections, n.d.).

II. Date: Circa 1671 (Blanton Museum of Art Collections, n.d.)

III. Location on Campus: Blanton Museum of Art

IV. Acquisition: As part of the Suida-Manning Collection, this painting arrived along with seven hundred other works in 1999 to the Blanton (Dobryzinski, 1998). Amassed by famous art historians William Suida and Robert and Bertina Suida-Manning, the collection comprises of various works by European artists spanning the 14th to 18th centuries (Dobryzinski, 1998). Robert Manning, a native of Texas, expressed prior to his death his desire for the collection to remain intact in a Texan institution and evaluated the Blanton by inviting its then-curator to his New York residence where many of the paintings were on display (Dobryzinski, 1998). His daughter, Ms. Dolnier, donated part of the collection to the Blanton. She emphasized her preference for the collection’s placement in a university in contrast to a museum like the Metropolitan in New York since it would garner much greater appreciation instead of landing in storage (Dobryzinski, 1998). Value is also derived from the artwork in the university museum due to its ideal nature for student-driven study and research involving Renaissance and Baroque art (Dobryzinski, 1998). Today, fifty of these works, including Lauri’s, are on permanent exhibition (Ura, 2013).

IV. Description: Oil painting on canvas 59 cm x 71.2 cm (23 1/4 in. x 28 1/16 in.)

Lauri explicitly depicts the mythological event of Jupiter and Juno’s wedding. Here, it is clear that he uses as inspiration Servius’ account of the myth in his commentary on Virgil’s Aeneid, which goes as follows. Mercury was said to have invited all the gods, humans, and animals to the wedding of his father. The nymph, Chelone, elected not to attend due to her arrogance, which greatly angered Mercury. He decided to discard Chelone’s house into a river while transforming her into a turtle or tortoise (Servius, Ad. Virgil’s Aeneid, i.509). This moment of metamorphosis is the subject of Lauri’s artistic rendition. In relation to mythological variants of this tale, one of the first accounts appears in Aesop’s Fables in which it is often coined “Zeus and the Tortoise.” This version of myth is responsible for birthing important ideals about the meaning and social constructs surrounding the oikos. According to Aesop, Zeus invited the animals to his wedding who all arrived except for the tortoise. His curiosity led him to inquire about her absence to which she replied, “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” Zeus’ characteristic anger is displayed when he punishes her by ordering her to carry her house (Aesop, Fables, 508). The quote is particularly interesting in that it influenced the writings of Christian classical scholar Desiderius Erasmus (1523) who included a version of the tortoise’s saying in his book of adages. Scholars or writers such as Plutarch and Cicero utilized the quote in order to make conclusions about the essence of a “loved home” in which often the wife must ascribe to her duties as a homemaker (Erasmus, 1523). Aesop’s version of the myth also functions in an etiological fashion in order to explain the nature of the tortoise shell. In fact, khelone signifies “tortoise” in Greek (Aesop, Fables, 508). Taking some artistic liberty, Lauri strays slightly from both recorded versions of the tale in that the main condemner of Chelone is Juno while both Mercury and Jupiter occupy spaces further away from the action (Blanton Museum of Art Collections, n.d.). One might wonder why Lauri would choose such a rendition when Juno’s main role in mythology is often subordinate to Jupiter as his consort (Buxton, 2016, 70-71). It is possible that Lauri is attempting to allude to Juno’s vindictive nature that frequently places her in a role to catalyze the metamorphosis of various characters (Buxton, 2016, 70-71). In this particular instance, the Greek conceptions of timḗ, hubris, and nemesis have particular relevance. As two powerful gods, Juno and Jupiter place great importance on their timḗ. Chelone’s lack of proper reverence to the Olympian gods by failing to attend their wedding is a direct attack and damage to their timḗs, which constitutes an act of hubris. In terms of hubris, as a nymph, Chelone fails to “know [herself]” and her place on the religious hierarchy by mocking the union of gods far more honored than her. At this point, Chelone is expected to incur nemesis, or retribution, in order for Juno and Jupiter to restore their timḗs. By transforming Chelone into a turtle, the punishment does appear severe yet is necessary if there is to only be one winner. The pleading expression Lauri plasters on Chelone’s face and outstretched hand as she attempts to escape her fate in the midst of her transformation is a testament to the lack of mercy the gods display. Juno may be the key player here because she also has a specific responsibility to uphold the value of marriage, which remains her sphere of influence, and a nymph like Chelone clearly specifically damages Juno’s timḗ by mocking a wedding union (Buxton, 2016, 70-71). When observing the manner in which Lauri depicts the gods, it is important to take artistic era into context. The seventeenth century is representative of a time period where artists were highly educated, and classical mythology had great cultural relevance (Brenner, 1996). In fact, the circulation of texts that defined visual symbols allowed for easy recognition of artistic entities such as Jupiter’s eagle or Juno’s peacock (Brenner, 1996). Interestingly, Lauri does not depict Juno in a traditional fashion. Instead of a modest and clothed appearance, she is likened more to Venus in her exposed state with only a veil slightly draping over her body (Morford, Lenardon, and Sham, 2014). Mercury, in position behind Jupiter, possesses the traditional attributes that were often associated with him in ancient art. He appears as a young, beardless man with a winged hat and caduceus, or herald’s wand, in his left hand, which was typical of Mercury in Roman iconography (“Hermes”, n.d.). The staff symbolizes Mercury’s role as the messenger of the gods and his relation to commerce or trade (Hornblower and Spawforth, 1996). Behind Hera, Lauri illustrates Cupid, the god of love, in Roman fashion as a young winged boy. Although Cupid had various functions in post classical art, here he is most likely a celebrant of the nuptial scene, also conveyed by the young appearance of both Juno and Jupiter (“Eros”, n.d). Finally, taking the oval shape of the canvas into account, it is possible the artwork was made to be displayed above a door or window indicating its decorative function (Blanton Museum of Art Collections, n.d.). This piece is displayed along with another piece of Lauri’s, which depicts the famous mythological metamorphosis account of “Venus and Adonis.” The similar shape and frame indicate that the two pieces may have been part of a series.


1984. “Aesop Fables.” Franklin Center, PA: Franklin Library.

Blanton Museum of Art Collections. n.d. “Mercury Transforming Chelone into a Turtle.” Accessed April 18, 2019.

Brenner, Carla. 1996. “The Inquiring Eye” Classical Mythology in European Art Teaching Packet.” Washington DC: National Gallery of Art.

Bryan, Michael. 1889. “Dictionary of Painters and Engravers: Biographical and Critical, Volume 2.” Edited by Walter Armstrong and Robert Edmund Graves, 25-26. London: George Well and Sons.

Buxton, Richard. 2016. “The Complete World of Greek Mythology.” London: Thames & Hudson

Dobryzinski, Judith. 1998. “Art Museum in Texas Gets Trove of 700 Works.” New York Times, November 12, 1998.

Erasmus, Desiderius. 1536. “The Adages of Erasmus.” Selected by William Barker. Toronto: Toronto University Press.

Filippo Lauri, “Mercury Transforming Chelone into a Turtle,” Blanton Museum of Art Collections, accessed April 26, 2019.

Hornblower, Simon and Anthony Spawforth, ed. 1996. The Oxford Classical Dictionary, third ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

McDonough, Christopher Michael, Richard Edmon Prior, and Mark Stansbury. 2004. “Servius Commentary on Book Four of Virgils Aeneid”. Mundelein: Bolchazi-Calducci Publishers.

Morford, Mark, Robert J. Lenardon, and Michael Sham. 2014. “Classical Mythology.” New York: Oxford University Press.

Theoi n.d. “Eros.” Accessed April 23, 2019.

Theoi n.d. “Hermes.” Accessed April 22, 2019.

Ura, Alexa. 2013. “Foundation to Transfer Full Ownership of Suida-Manning Collection to Blanton in 2016.” The Daily Texan, April, 29, 2013.

Written by Palak Diwanji

Prometheus and Vulture by Koren Der Harootian

Artist: Harootian was born in Armenia. Due to the mass genocide by the ruling Turks his family moved to Russia initially but ended up immigrating to the United States. This gave Harootian the opportunity to gain an education where he studied painting and developed the early skill of watercolor painting. After finishing his schooling, he moved to Jamaica where he befriend Edna Manley who greatly influenced his work leading to his love of carving. His sculptures ranges “being made from” wood, bronze, and stone carvings.

Date: Created in 1948

Location on Campus: Bass Concert Hall, 6th floor

Acquisition: Prometheus and Vulture, in addition to 27 other sculptures, was loaned to UT in 2009 from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. All 28 sculptures were introduced to UT to expose the students, and other visitors, to major art trends during the last half of the 20th century.

Description: The Prometheus and Vulture sculpture is made of marble. The dimensions are 62.5 × 33.75 × 15.5 inches. Rather than Harootian being influenced by Jamaican art, he kept his own style and perspective when creating his sculptures. In fact, his creations impacted Jamaican culture. With the help of Manely, they were able to twist the traditional artwork in Jamaica into a beautiful, alternative new genre.

In Apollodorus’ account of Prometheus and humanity, Prometheus is seen as the creator of mankind by forming them straight from the earth and water. In Aeschylus’ play, Prometheus Bound, Prometheus granted humans every skill from navigation to medicine. But the greatest gift he gave them that coined him as “humanity’ benefactor” was fire! Prometheus is seen as the giver of science and civilization. In both accounts Prometheus is the god of foresight. Although he knew his disobedience would result in punishment, he knew he would eventually be freed (eventually he was freed by Herakles). This beautiful sculpture crafted by Harootian does have the symbolic meaning of the traditional myth that Prometheus is the god of foresight, and after being tormented for eternity he would be eventually freed. However, Harootian gave the sculpture the underlying symbolism of fear and conflict, serving a metaphor for WWII. Harootian wanted to express in this sculpture that, like Prometheus, the ones who suffered after the war believed their suffering was a crucial step in the advancement of mankind and they knew they would be released from the oppression and torment. In the sculpture itself you can see Prometheus chained and laying back in agony. However, rather than following the myth of Apollodorus and Aeschylus, the bird in the sculpture is a vulture rather than an eagle. In this sculpture the vulture is mounted on Prometheus’ knee as if prepared to eat out his liver. I believe that this sculpture is also meant to express the element of sacrifice in mankind. Prometheus sacrifices a large part of his life just for the advancement of humans. Its human nature to sacrifice yourself rather than have others in misery. Parents would sacrifice everything for the well being of their kids, in this case Prometheus is the parent and the children are all humans. Sacrifice is meant to benefit for the greater good. Prometheus knows he would be suffering for an unknown amount of time, but he sees it’s worth it for the advancement of his creations.


“APOLLODORUS, THE LIBRARY 1.” APOLLODORUS, THE LIBRARY BOOK 1 – Theoi Classical Texts Library. Accessed April 26, 2019.

Chen, T. S., and P. S. Chen. “The Myth of Prometheus and the Liver.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. December 1994. Accessed April 25, 2019.

“Khoren Der Harootian.” Khoren Der Harootian RSS. Accessed April 25, 2019.

“PROMETHEUS.” PROMETHEUS – Greek Titan God of Forethought, Creator of Mankind. Accessed April 22, 2019.

“Prometheus and Vulture.” LANDMARKS. August 01, 2018. Accessed April 25, 2019.

Aeschylus. “Prometheus Bound.” In Anthology of Classical Myth. 2nd ed.

Written by Julia Ouchie


Danaë by Jacques Blanchard at the Blanton Museum of Art

Artist: Jacques Blanchard (1600-1638), sometimes referred to as “French Titian”, is best known for his small religious and mythological paintings. Blanchard’s paintings deviated substantially from his contemporaries’; specifically, Blanchard’s painting style was softer and gentler with color and light than works of the Mannerist period that preceded him, and his choice of more sensual subject matter was unorthodox for the time period. But despite his deviance in style from many other famous contemporaries, the influence of the early baroque style on Blanchard’s painting is clearly observed in Danaë.

Date: Danaë was completed in the 1620s, 20 years into the start of the Baroque artistic period in Europe.

Location on Campus: The painting is housed in the Suida-Manning collection of the Blanton Museum of Art. Danaë one of the 50 pieces from the collection that is a part of Blanton’s permanent exhibition.

Acquisition: The painting was acquired by the University in 1998, along with the other 250 European paintings, 400 drawings, and 20 sculptures of the $33 million Suida-Manning Collection.

Description: The painting is a 36 3/4 in. x 50 9/16 in oil painting on canvas. Danaë is a vivid depiction of the mythological scene in which the Danaë, mother of the Greek hero Perseus, first encounters the enraptured and infatuated Jupiter.

One of the more striking artistic elements employed in the painting that was characteristic of baroque art is Blanchard’s use of chiaroscuro, or contrast between light and dark in order to highlight the central figures in the painting. In this image, Danaë’s fair skin is contrasted with a dark background, which is interrupted only by the glowing image of Jupiter. This serves to help the viewer focus their attention initially on the beauty of Danaë, allowing recognition of the subtleties of the painting to be registered later. In addition, one of baroque art’s central tenants was painting highly emotional scenes in order to appeal to the pathos of the viewer in a particular way; in this painting, Blanchard seems to emphasize Danaë’s confusion at the presence of Zeus more than any other emotion. Present also in the painting is a depiction of Cupid, or Eros, helping the reader understand that Jupiter’ admiration is of a sexual nature.

The Greek myth of Perseus and his strange birth may explain Danaë’s expression of confusion in this painting. According to Pherecydes’ The Histories and Apollodorus’ Library, Danaë’s father, Acrisios, had concern about fathering a male child and consulted the oracle for answers. There, the god Pytho informed Acrisios that his daughter Danaë would father a child who would ultimately kill him. In order to prevent his own fate at the hands of his grandson, he constructed an underground bronze chamber in his courtyard and kept Danaë inside as prisoner so that no man could woo and wed her. However, Acrisios’ attempts at isolating the beautiful Danaë failed when Zeus caught sight of Danaë. Zeus fell in love with her, and, turning himself into a shower of gold, rained down through the thatched roof, wooed her, and impregnated her. Ovid, a later Roman poet, retold the story briefly in book 4 of Metamorphoses, changing Danaë’s prison from an underground bronze chamber into a tower. Nonetheless, it is likely that Blanchard was influenced by a classical Greek text such as Library or Histories, as these accounts provide the reader with the most vivid detail of the scene.

Because the whole purpose of Danaë’s isolation was to keep her away from men, it is only natural that she would be surprised at the presence of Zeus in her chamber. It is unclear in the image whether Danaë is underground or in a tower; however, given that Zeus is on a cloud, it is assumed that she is in a tower and Zeus is seeing her through the open window. As aforementioned, the presence of Eros, or Cupid, indicates that, characteristically, Zeus is infatuated and that he is about to sexually pursue Danaë. Contrary to descriptions in myth, however, Zeus is depicted not as a golden shower, but as a deity. This is likely to help the reader understand Zeus’ infatuation, as his facial expression of admiration is a key indication to viewer of his intentions in Danaë’s chamber. Danaë and Cupid’s open hands indicate that, though surprised and perhaps confused, Danaë was welcome to Zeus’ presence in her chamber. No part of myth indicates that Zeus forced himself on Danaë, and Blanchard emphasizes this by filling Danaë’s facial expression with wonder.

This painting is an excellent example of how Greek myths were adapted by European artists to fit the style of their period. Jacques Blanchard’s Danaë demonstrates how baroque art appropriated Greek myth while remaining true to the artistic style of the individual artist. The fact that paintings like this are owned by the University of Texas is a testament to the University’s commitment to displaying and giving students access to a wide variety of high-quality, cross-cultural works.


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Written by Sophia Bibb