Special Sub-Topic: Titian's "Flaying of Marsyas"
|The central action of the painting is the skinning alive of the character Marsyas. What offense has he committed?|
He dared to challenge Apollo to a contest on the flute.. Marsyas won the contest. It's not nice to do that when you're competing with a god.
|Marsyas is not the only character in the picture who is being punished. Who is the elderly gentleman on the left with buskins and the ears of an ass?|
Midas. Midas was the judge of the contest. His punishment for preferring Marsyas' performance was to be given asses' ears. What happened to the touch of gold? Same king, different myth. (Incidentally, the Midas in the painting is a self-portrait of Titian.)
|The characters in the the painting exhibit facial expressions that can best be described by which adjectives?|
contemplative and absorbed. Even Marsyas himself seems to have found a way to transcend the inherent horror of what is happening to him.
|Marsyas is what kind of figure from Greek myth?|
satyr. A satyr had the torso of a man, the lower body of a goat, and a head somewhere in between.
|Approximately how old was Titian when he painted this picture?|
85. That ranks with the late operas of Verdi as one of the most prodigious achievements of an aged artist ever. We cannot be certain of Titian's age, because the year of his birth is uncertain. However, he was born around 1490, and the painting was executed in 1575 or 1576.
|Who is the figure to the far right playing the viol?|
Apollo. Not taking any more chances, Apollo switches instruments. The choice "St. Cecilia" (patroness of music) is not as far-fetched as it sounds, because the figure of Apollo is influenced by Christian iconography, in particular the depiction of angels.
|Who is the figure to the left, holding a bucket?|
Pan. Just as Apollo is fused with the concept of an angel, the demonic-appearing Pan is fused with that of the devil.
|The character who is actually doing the flaying is wearing a characteristic cap which gives away the location of the story. Where would that be?|
Phrygia. Like much of the painting's iconography, the cap has multiple meanings. It was the general symbol for foreigners, particularly Trojans, in classical times and the symbol for freed slaves (later a general symbol for freedom). It also bears more than a slight resemblance to the cap of the doge, the ruler of Venice, where Titian lived and worked.
|The style of the painting is strikingly different from most earlier works of Titian. However, the absence of clear outlines in the figures is characteristic of a few late paintings, including one of what frequently depicted saint?|
Sebastian. Saint Sebastian is a common nude study because he was supposedly martyred by being shot with many arrows.
|One reason the "Flaying" may lack fame is that its home is not in a great museum city, but what relatively obscure central European town?|
Kromeriz in the Czech Republic. It was formerly in the Archbishop's Palace and is now in the State Museum. Fortunately for those who can't make the pilgrimage, the painting often goes on tour.
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