The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Perseus and Andromeda
  • Titian (1485 - 1576)
  • Perseus and Andromeda
  • Italy
  • probably 1554 - 1556
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 175 x 189.5 cm, maximum
    Object size: 230 x 243 x 10 cm
  • P11
  • Great Gallery
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Perseus and Andromeda was one of a series of six large-scale mythological
    paintings commissioned from Titian by King Philip II of Spain, that were
    each to represent a scene from The Metamorphoses, an immensely popular
    epic poem by the Roman poet Ovid. Philip II did not however prescribe which
    subjects should be chosen, leaving the choice to Titian. The commission was
    a milestone in Titian’s career, and he was conscious that he was creating
    something unprecedented. He referred to the paintings as his Poesie, or poetry, because he wanted them to be the
    visual equivalent of poetry.
    Perseus and Andromeda is perhaps the most dramatic of all of them.
    Andromeda is shown chained to a rock as a sacrifice to appease the
    sea monster, who had been sent by Neptune to punish her mother for
    claiming that she and Andromeda were more beautiful than the Nereids. The
    hero Perseus swoops down to rescue her, his powerful vertiginous descent
    contrasting vividly with her passive vulnerability. Titian demonstrates his
    skill as a painter of the female nude: Andromeda is posed frontally, her
    nakedness forming a strong visual antithesis to the lightly armoured body
    of Perseus.Titian made several major changes to the composition during the painting process: the figure of Andromeda, for example, was originally placed on the right.
    The picture was probably painted in 1554 – 56 and may have been sent
    to Philip II in 1556. It is not clear how the painting left the Spanish royal
    collection but it later belonged to the sculptor Pompeo Leoni (who
    had worked for the Kings of Spain in Madrid from 1556, initially helping his
    father, Leone Leoni) and then to Van Dyck, who brought it to London.
    Having passed through a series of distinguished French collections, it was
    bought by the 3rd Marquess of Hertford in 1815. The condition of the painting
    has suffered considerably since the sixteenth century, although the grandeur
    of the original conception still has the power to impress.