Sunday, December 16, 2012

Andromeda, Cetus, Perseus and Pegasus


This is a linocut of the Greek myth of Andromeda. Her mother, Queen Cassiopeia bragged that Andromeda was more beautiful than the Nereids, or sea nymphs, angering Poseidon, god of the sea. He sent Cetus the sea monster to ravage the coast of the kingdom as punishment. The King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia were advised by an oracle that they needed to sacrifice their daughter to Cetus to save their land. She was striped bare and chained to a rock by the coast. She proved a very lucky princess, because who should happen by but the hero Perseus, fresh from his successful battle with the snake-headed Gorgon Medusa (whose head was in his sack). You see, Medusa's head turned the living to stone, which made it quite the useful weapon. Further, Pegasus the flying horse was born from the stump of her neck, so really this defeating Medusa was win-win for Perseus. He, of course, fell in love, slayed the monster and married Andromeda.

In the print, the monster Cetus encircles the rock on which Andromeda is chained. Perseus is shown descending on Pegasus, his flying horse, to battle the monster. You can see a couple of snakes peeping from his sack. Some versions of the myth suggest that Perseus was invisible at this moment, since he was wearing Hades's helm (note: Harry Potter was not the first to have a cloak of invisibility), but through the magic of printmaking, Perseus and Pegasus are made visible. (Flying horses are far more interesting when you can see them. Or perhaps, this is moment before he donned the cloak.)

Most of this story is commemorated in the night sky. Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Andromeda, Perseus, Cetus and Pegasus are all constellations.

The print is in a variable edition of 6 on lovely Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper, 11 inches or 28 cm square. The block was inked 'à la poupée', with different colours applied directly to a single block. The sea is royal blue, the sea monster deep red with yellow eyes, the hair and wings on Perseus' helmet are yellow.

(May replace this with a higher resolution scan once I get Photoshop on my early Christmas gift).

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