The Metamorphoses in the Grimani Palace in Venice
The Grimani Palace in Venice is one of the most interesting places of the town for those who love Renaissance. The Palace in fact has a rich frescoed decoration, often inspired by mythological episodes.
During the 16th century the book which more than every other was used as source for mythological tales was the Metamorphoses by the famous Latin poet Ovid (43 b.C- 17 A.D.).
In the wonderful Apollo’s room, we can discover the story of the Silenus Marsyas: he played the flute so well that all the people were encharmed by it, saying he was more talented than Apollo.
Marsyas, who was proud, didn’t contradict them, until one day his fame got to the God, who challenged him. The winner would have the right to do what he wanted to the other.
Finally, Apollo was declared the winner and then he decided to punish Marsyas for his pride and he tied him to a tree to rip him alive. From Marsyas’ blood a creek was created, in which streamed the tears of the broken companions.
In the room ceiling, decorated with stuccoes by Giovanni da Udine in 1540, we can see the tragic story of Marsyas, in four squares made in fresco by Francesco Salviati.
In the first Marsyas plays the flute and dances while Apollo, seated, points him to two Nymphs who are attending the race.
In the second square Olympus, Marsyas’ lover, kneeling before Apollo, begs him to save the satyr’s life, while on the left there is a female figure who symbolizes the Earth and on the right a river figure, who represents the Water; it is a way to intend that Nature joins the supplication.
In the third Apollo, with the Laurel crown, is attending the execution, while the Scytian, kneeling, has a knife in a hand pointing Marsyas, who is tied to the tree.
The last square represents the pain, expressed by a dancing Nymph, the Source and the old River.
In the next room, Callisto’s room, the wonderful ceiling stuccoed by Giovanni da Udine in 1539, tells us another myth from the Metamorphoses by Ovid: Callisto was a very beautiful Nymph and Zeus seeing her while she was resting in a wood, fell in love with her.
To seduce Callisto, who was consecrated to Arthemis, and therefore had made a vow of chastity, Zeus decided to assume the appearance of the same Arthemis.
After a while Arthemis, with Callisto and her court, decides to rest having a bath at a source. Callisto, pregnant, at the beginning hesitated to undress, because she didn’t want to reveal she had lost virginity. But Arthemis, taking off her dress, discovers her betrayal.
Callisto was hunted and the Goddess Hera, to take revenge for the Zeus betrayal, transformed her in a bear.
The son, Arcades, born from the union with Zeus, grew up and he met during a hunting the bear, and when he was killing her, the father arrives, transforming mother and son in two Constellations: Ursa Major, the Great Bear and Ursa Minor the Little Bear.
In the ceiling we can see in the first square the Nymph Callisto seduced by Arthemis- Zeus; in the second the pregnant Nymph to the bath is hunted by the companions; in the third square Hera punishes Callisto transforming her in a bear; in the fourth Arcades is killing the mother; in the middle of the ceiling at last Zeus transforms mother and son in the constellations of the Great Bear and the Little Bear.