The Epic Theme of Love

  • John Bayley


Among the many spacious classical compositions, now coming back into fashion, which were executed by Lord Leighton during the late Victorian period, is one of that favourite subject of heroic art, the rescue of Andromeda by Perseus, a rescue that was of course the prelude to one of the comparatively few stable and, one assumes, happy unions recorded in Greek legend. Leighton’s treatment of it is sufficiently striking, his canvas being dominated by the sea-serpent, whose dark bulk forms a cave in which Andromeda seems, even if shrinkingly, to have installed herself. In this situation the assailant threatening her might even be Perseus himself; she seems at any rate withdrawn into a kind of provisional domesticity, regardless of all the strenuous goings-on about her. Some fifty years earlier, Ingres had painted his celebrated picture with a similar subject, the rescue of Angelica by Ruggiero, taken from Ariosto’s epic, Orlando Furioso. Here too we may be struck by the element of disparation that dominates the form.


Epic Term Provisional Domesticity Classical Epic Conjugal Love Epic Form 
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Copyright information

© Tom Winnifrith, Penelope Murray and K. W. Gransden 1983

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  • John Bayley

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