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Monday, April 19, 2010

Mythical Monday: Pan Gets His Pipes

In Greek mythology Pan encountered a beauteous young woman, Syrinx, and, being a creature of unrepentant lust availed himself of her favors. Syrinx would take nothing from his charming overtures. Rejected, he chose to pursue. Syrinx ran as best she could, but found herself at an impasse. Before her, cutting her path, was the River Ladon. The poor young thing was truly experiencing "panic" and found no route to escape the advances of the lusting Pan. Syrinx entreated the River God for some means of escape. The god replied by transforming her into reeds. 

When Pan arrived looking for the object of his desire he found instead the bank of the river covered with reeds. Pan sighed out of frustration at missing his chance to consume the delicious young thing and the wind of his breath blew into the hollow reeds and made a pleasant noise. So he gathered a group of the cut stalks together and fashioned himself an instrument which he called a syrinx in honor of his lost maiden.

I thought of this myth yesterday as I gathered together some lilac blossoms from a group of local shrubs on a vacant lot. No one ever bothers to maintain the shrubs and they never fail to bloom. So, now that I have moved back into town and know of this Spring event, I took advantage of having some cut flowers in the house for a week or so. Cut lilacs never last long enough in my opinion, but they sure do offer purple beauty and heady fragrance when they are fresh. 

The botanical name of lilacs is syringa, which, describes a tubular shape. Also, syrinx is the latin name for the organ birds use to produce their singing. It is the basis of the word syringe as well. Syrinx is the "mother" of lilacs in a way. It is fitting that the flower, like Pan's lust, is a deep purple hue. I always think of that color as a symbol of being gay. And what God better typifies being gay, in every possible meaning of the word, than Pan?

This is a much more popular subject source for classically trained painters of the 17th and 18th centuries than the tale of Glaucus and Scylla was. I wonder why exactly that was. I'm not sure, but I think this tale is among those in Ovid's Metamorphoses while the other isn't. That work was tremendous inspiration for many romanticists.

Pan and Syrinx by the Italian painter,  Sebastiano Ricci

By the Flemish master, Peter Paul Rubens, 1617-19

By Hendrik van Balen the Elder, Belgian, 1615

Jacob Jordaens, Belgium, 1625:

By Jean Francois de Troy, France, 1722-1724

By Nicolas Poussin, 1637

By Francois Boucher, France, 1762

This engraving is from 1589 and was created in the fashion of the Dutch artist, Hendrik Goltzius, by an unknown artist:

Here is another variation of it by yet another unidentified artist: 

Here, in greater detail:

And, from the 20th Century, this work by the artist, Edmund Dulac:

The final two examples are from this century:
Art by Alessandro Andreuccetti, Italy, 2007:

A Study After Rubens

Art by Coinkydink:

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