This panel, which appears to have been cut down, illustrates the story of Alcyone from Ovid's 'Metamorphoses' (XI: 410-748). Ceyx's departure to consult the oracle of the god at Claros was delayed by his devoted wife Alcyone, who had foreseen a stormy sea and winds. A companion panel in the Philadelphia Museum of Art shows the body of Ceyx (who reluctantly set off despite his wife's protestations and whose ship was destroyed in a storm as predicted) being carried back to Alcyone upon the waves. When she recognised her husband's body, Alcyone hurled herself into the sea. The unfortunate pair were transformed by a pitying god into birds, which are shown on the left of the Philadelphia panel.

The costumes in both works are identical, supporting the idea that the two pictures were conceived as a pair, though their original destination is not known.

Key facts

Artist
Artist dates
active 1490; died 1525/6
Full title
The Departure of Ceyx
Date made
probably about 1502-7
Medium and support
Oil on spruce
Dimensions
74.9 x 88.9 cm
Acquisition credit
Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number
NG3085
Location in Gallery