Mechtild (mechtild) wrote,

Announcement: Going away.


Morpheus and Iris by Guérin, teaser crop

~ Detail from “Morpheus and Iris” by Pierre-Narcisse Guerin (1774-1833).

Warning: Nudity. Full painting, while not racy, shows nude young man and bare-breasted woman. You be the judge. Photobucket would *definitely* take this down, since they took down Bouguereau's "Cupid and Psyche" and Michelangelo's "David". *rolleyes* I posted these images on Scrapbook.

Going away….

On Thursday I will be going away for two weeks to visit my mother and brother. She has no internet, so I will be not much online, snatching opportunities during the occasional trip to the public library.

As a farewell gift to my art fans out there, I’m posting Pierre-Narcisse Guerin’s 1811 *confection* of a painting, “Morpheus and Iris”. At my old Frodo hang-out at Khazad-dûm we thought of this as the swooners' icon. Who needed to make an Art Travesty out of it, I asked back then? It was a great Frodo art manip just as it was.

Fellow Frodo-fans mariole, elasg, aussiepeach and ellinestel actually saw “Morpheus and Iris” in person in St. Petersburg. The painting is approximately 6’ wide and 8’ high, more than life-size. I think I would have *swooned* on the spot. Judging from a shot the fans posted of themselves sighing before the painting where it hangs in the Hermitage, the whole of Morpheus is conveniently at eye-level.

Guérin seemed to have practiced for this painting, producing a nearly identical composition for his 1810 “Aurora and Cephalus” (see image below), but I much prefer the way he treated the subject in his “Morpheus and Iris”. What a delicious painting! Such colours! I am only sorry that the large image I made from a scan does not have the colours of the much small version available on the Hermitage’s website (also shown below). The colours are more pastel, less golden than the version I scanned, which appeared as an illustration in a book on mythology. I’ve tried fiddling with the colour levels to get a better match, but, alas. The large scan will just have to remain more golden.

~ Mechtild

“Morpheus and Iris” by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, 1811, slightly cropped. From a scan of a library book:

Morpheus and Iris by Guérin, at the Hermitage, 1811, slightly cropped large image

Here’s a copy of the painting as it appears on the Hermitage Museum’s website. How I wish it were larger! Note the top and bottom areas, which were cropped off in the library book's illustration:

Morpheus and Iris by Guérin, at the Hermitage, 1811, full painting


Prompted by Mews' comment below, I decided to look up the myth of Iris and Morpheus. In Ovid, apparently Isis, the goddess of the Rainbow, was sent as a messenger by Hera (queen of the gods and wife of Jupiter) to the god of Sleep, Hypnos, to arrange for a revelatory dream to be sent to the wife of a hero who had drowned at sea. In Ovid's account, it sounds a bit like the scene painted, but the one of Aurora and Cephalus! In Ovid's story, Iris pushes aside veils of dreams in order to speak to the sleeping god (which looks like what is happening in the paintings below), but the god is Hypnos, Sleep, not Morpheus, Sleep's son.

Morpheus was one of Sleep's countless sons, all gods of Dreams. Morpheus, it seemed, was especially gifted at portraying the human form in dreams, assuming any human shape or form ("morph"). So, he went as requested to appear to the wife as the drowned husband, white and dripping with sea water, thus letting her know what had happened.

In the actual painting "Morpheus and Iris", it does appear that a black drape is being pushed back, but a solid drape, not a "veil". And an angel is doing it, not Iris herself (well, what is staff for?).

In the myth of Aurora and Cephalus, Cephalus is a beautiful young hero in love with sports, married happily to Procris, the daughter of a king. Aurora (the goddess of the Dawn) sees him out hunting (a true hunter, he goes out before dawn) and falls in love with him. She carries him off, keeping him an unwilling prisoner. She let him go, but later, set up by the gods, he unwittingly kills his own beloved wife. As far as I can see, the picture that Guérin painted to illustrate this myth had nothing to do with it, but was merely a reworking of his painting for Morpheus and Iris.

Here is Guérin’s 1810 “Aurora and Cephalus” (at the Louvre), with nearly the same composition, painted the year before. It’s another very large picture, about 6 x 8 feet. Morpheus (see directly above), painted a year later, is a longer, slimmer youth than the Cephalus shown below. Perhaps Guérin got complaints from viewers that Cephalus was a little too zaftig.

Aurora and Cephalus by Guérin, at the Louvre, 1810

Here is the “Aurora and Cephalus” Guérin painted a year later, in 1811. It’s at the Hermitage. It is quite different, I think, perhaps to distinguish it from the 1811 “Morpheus and Iris”. I think I prefer this “Aurora and Cephalus” to the 1810 version posted directly above. It has a sort of ‘story book’ quality to it, as if it were an illustration rather than a painting. I love the radiant light in the 1810 version, but this one has a more natural look to its lighting, the stars winking in the black sky. And in this one, Aurora looks more like a fairy than a pin-up. I love the way the angel or cherub is used, helping to bear up the sleeping Cephalus. And the Austin Powers device of letting the angel’s mop of curls mask the young man’s pubic area is a charmingly clever way to make the image more PG-13.

I wonder for whom this was painted? Checking its dimensions, it’s only about 10 x 14 inches in size, oil on a wood panel. Perhaps it was a small practice painting for a commission, another huge piece, that was never done?

Aurora and Cephalus by Guérin, at the Hermitage, 1811

~ Mechtild

Tags: art, frodo, morpheus and iris, pierre-narcisse guerin

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