Works of Art Inspired by Characters from Mythology

by Erin on August 31, 2012

Anyone who appreciates art and art history has their favorite works, and I am certainly no exception. The paintings I selected today represent different eras in the history of art, including the Renaissance, the Neoclassical period, and the eclectic Nineteenth century.

As for the characters who populate the paintings themselves, they are mainly drawn from Classical mythology, with one notable exception. Read on to learn more. Feel free to visit the pages to which I’ve linked for more in depth information, and to see images of the paintings. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words…

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

As the title indicates, this masterpiece depicts a specific event from Classical mythology - the birth of the goddess Venus. Artist Sandro Botticelli portrays Venus (who is known as Aphrodite in Greek myth) rising from the water. The new born goddess is accompanied by an entourage of mythological characters.

It goes without saying that Botticell’s Birth of Venus is an iconic image in the history of Western art. The painting has inspired artists through the centuries to create their own versions of the birth of Venus. That, however, is a tale for another time.

Jupiter and Thetis by J.A.D Ingres

In the painting Jupiter and Thetis, artist J.A.D. Ingres represented a scene from the Iliad of Homer. Thetis is here attempting to supplicate Jupiter, the implacable ruler of the Olympian gods and goddesses.

Remember me mentioning something about the Neoclassical period? The works of Ingres are traditionally categorized as Neoclassical in terms of their style, and Jupiter and Thetis is a fine example of how one of these Neoclassical artists drew inspiration from the past.

The Beguiling of Merlin by Edward Burne-Jones

The Beguiling of Merlin shows a Nineteenth century interpretation of mythology by artist Edward Burne-Jones. Fans of Celtic myth - specifically Arthurian legend - will recognize the names Merlin and Nimue. Here, the pair are portrayed in a dramatic moment, frozen in time. Nimue is the figure in the foreground. She holds a book and casts a glance back at Merlin. A grey-haired, silver-eyed Merlin returns her gaze.

The Garden of the Hesperides by Lord Leighton

The Hesperides from Classical myth were traditionally thought of as beautiful young women, and this is the type of subject that tended to inspire a painter like Lord Leighton to pick up his brushes and create a striking work of art. In The Garden of the Hesperides, the young women - or rather nymphs - are arranged around a massive tree.

Neptune’s Horses by Walter Crane

Neptune - or Poseidon as he was known to the ancient Greeks - inspired this painting by Nineteenth century artist Walter Crane.

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