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The Flaying of Marsyas
Domenichino and assistants
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The mythological story of the musical competition between the god Apollo and the satyr Marsyas is told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Marsyas challenged Apollo to a music contest, which the god won. To punish him for his presumption, Apollo skinned him alive.

This is one of ten frescoes by Domenichino and assistants which originally adorned the walls of a room in a garden pavilion in the grounds of the Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati, near Rome. Eight of the frescoes were transferred to canvas and are now in our collection. This one was originally over the entrance, and its grisly subject matter summed up the theme of the entire room: the triumph of reason (symbolised by Apollo) over sensual passions.

Domenichino designed all ten scenes in the cycle, two of which still remain in situ, but relied on assistants to complete the paintings.

Key facts
Artist Domenichino and assistants
Artist dates 1581 - 1641
Full title The Flaying of Marsyas
Series Villa Aldobrandini Frescoes
Date made 1616-18
Medium and support Fresco, transferred to canvas and mounted on board
Dimensions 210.2 x 331.4 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1958
Inventory number NG6288
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Villa Aldobrandini Frescoes

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These large frescoes (now transferred to canvas) once decorated the walls of a spectacular pavilion in one of the great Italian Baroque gardens.

The Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati was rebuilt by Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, nephew of Pope Clement VIII, in the early years of the seventeenth century. Immediately behind the palace, he built a large classical pavilion and decorated it with fountains, statues and paintings. Domenichino’s frescoes – two of which remain in situ – were arranged around a room called the Stanza di Apollo, which also contained a musical fountain representing Mount Parnassus, the mythical home of the Greek sun god Apollo and the Muses. Based on themes drawn from the Greek myths, the iconographical programme glorified the triumph of the Catholic Church, and the role of the Aldobrandini family in it, emphasising the superiority of the intellect over the emotions.

Although Domenichino designed the pictures, much of the actual painting was done by assistants.

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