The story of Perseus and Andromeda has captured the imaginations of artists for centuries. This legend is one of the many myths created by the ancient Greeks, and it is a favorite tale in Classical mythology. And the reason this tale is so seductive is not surprising, for it includes such thrilling themes as adventure, heroism, and bravery. In addition, the Perseus and Andromeda myth had one other essential element that happened to be a Nineteenth century preoccupation - rescuing a damsel in distress.
According to mythology, Perseus was an adventurous Greek hero. As was the habit of legendary heroes, Perseus got caught up in a bit of drama. This situation involved a proud and self-absorbed woman (named Cassiopeia), a lovely and innocent young maiden (Cassiopeia's daughter, Andromeda), and a particularly nasty monster. Legend has it that Cassiopeia had the audacity to compare her beauty to that of the sea-nymphs, and as punishment, she was forced to offer her daughter to a ravenous sea creature. So Andromeda was taken out to sea, chained to a rock, and left to die.
Perseus just happened to witness the horrible event as it was taking place. Fortunately for our hero, he was up to the challenge of saving the helpless princess. And the rescue of Andromeda is the subject of Lord Leighton's painting. Perseus is depicted in the upper portion of the painting, riding the winged horse Pegasus (which is an artistic liberty) surrounded by a halo of light. In contrast, the semi-nude Andromeda cowers under the scaly wings of the dark monster (the creature resembles a dragon). This play of light against dark is one of the most striking features of Leighton's masterful depiction of a memorable myth.
The Art of Lord Leighton
In this beautiful book, author Christopher Newall examines the life and works of eminent Victorian artist Frederic Leighton. The chapters deal with Leighton's evolution as a painter, from his early phase as "The Outsider", to success as "The President of the Royal Academy". And there are plenty of gorgeous color images to complement the text.
Christopher Wood's elegant and informative book features a comprehensive "who's who" of Victorian artists, from Pre-Raphaelite masters such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, to what Wood terms the Olympian Dreamers - including Lawrence Alma-Tadema, G.F. Watts, and Albert Moore. Highly recommended for anyone who appreciates Victorian art.