Page images



The history of Edipus is an inexhaustible source of interesting subjects for poets and for artists. The involuntary crimes of this unfortunate king of Thebes, the persecutions caused by his son, and the filial affection of his daughter Antigone, have conspired to render him the hero of an infinite number of tragic scenes. It is in Sophocles, Homer, and Pausanias, that we are furnished with particulars of the life of this wretched monarch. According to the latter, he was exposed on Mount Cithæron by his father Laïus, to whom the oracle bad announced that he was to perish by the band of his son, and that that son would marry his mother, Jocasta. Discovered on the banks of the Cithæron by a shepherd, who carried him to the court of Corinth, (Edipus there passed for the son of the king, who adopted him. But an oracle declaring that he would one day become a parricide, and guilty of incest, he departed from those whom he considered his parents, and in his travels meeting with Larus, they quarrelled, and Laïus was killed. Some time after he went to Thebes, explained the enigma of the sphinx, and married Jocasta. A few days after this unhappy union, Jocasta, recognising the features of her son in those of her husband, put herself to death, and dipus remained in possession of the ihrone of Thebes. Some time afterwards he married Euriganéa, by whom he had four children, and finished his miserable life in his own country.

M. Peyron, who borrowed from Euripides the subject of his admirable picture of Alcestes, is indebted in a great measure to Sophocles for the ground-work of his composition.

Cdipus, compelled to fly from country to country with Antigone, arrived at Colonos, a village in the vicinity of Athens, and concealed himself in a wood consecrated to the Eumenides. Some Athenians, surprized at seeing an old man and a young girl reposing themselves where no profane foot had ventured to tread, resolved to remove them by force. Theseus saves them from the fury of the people. Polinices, who had driven his father from Thebes, being in his turn expelled by his brother Eteocles, was then at Athens. He throws himself at the feet of @dipus, and solicits bis pardon; but the old king remains insensible to his remorse, and loads him with his

The prayers of Antigone are in vain exerted to


female beside Polinices, is his sister Ismena, who appears to be inspired with those sentiments of filial affection for which Antigone is celebrated.


appease his

This composition, which was exhibited in 1806, is dignified, simple, and affecting. The attitudes of Edipus and Polinices are well chosen, and the expression of the heads most happily delineated. The drawing and general harmony correspond with the felicity of the idea.

[subsumed][merged small][ocr errors][graphic]



MYTHOLOGISTS have cited innumerable personages to whom the education of Bacchus was entrusted: according to some writers, the Fauns and the Dryads superintended the early years of that divinity. This is the opinion adopted by Poussin.

The infant Bacchus, supported by a satyr, seizes with much avidity a cup into which another satyr presses the juice of a bunch of grapes. Adjoining this group is a nymph, partly covered, holding a Thyrsis. In the front, a nymph and a child naked are observed sleeping; a third infant is playing with a goat; while two others, upon an elevation at some distance, are seen embracing each other.

This tasteful composition, of a pleasing simplicity, is in the first manner of Poussin, called by Sir Joshua Reynolds his dry manner—which characterizes all his best performances. At this period Poussin attached himself less to the charms of colouring and chiaro-scuro, than to expression and design. In the latter part of his life he changed from this dry manner to one much softer and richer, where there is a greater union between the figures and the ground, as in the Seven Sacraments; but neither these, nor any of his other pictures in this manner, are at

« PreviousContinue »