This chaotic and animated scene shows the followers of Phineus bursting in on the wedding feast of Perseus and Andromeda. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Phineus has previously been engaged to Andromeda and intends to murder Perseus, but Perseus is fighting back. Standing in the centre wearing a red cape, he holds a head in his outstretched arm: Medusa’s. Her hair is made of snakes which have the power to turn Phineus’s followers to stone – the face and arm of the figure in blue are turning grey. Just behind Perseus, the figure with his javelin raised has already turned to stone. Phineus himself is out of sight. Floating above Perseus, Pallas holds a spear and shield with Medusa’s head. In the top right corner, Andromeda watches the scene unfold through an arch.
This painting entered the National Gallery as a work by Nicolas Poussin, but it is now thought to be by unknown Flemish artist.
This chaotic and animated scene depicts an episode from Book V of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The followers of Phineus have interrupted the wedding feast of Perseus and Andromeda. Phineus was previously been engaged to Andromeda and intends to murder Perseus.
In the midst of a bloody battle, Perseus, standing in the centre wearing a red cape, holds a head in his outstretched arm: Medusa’s. Her hair is made of snakes which have the power to turn Phineus’s followers to stone. Just behind Perseus, the figure with his javelin raised has already been transformed into stone. Many of Phineus’s supporters look shocked and confused, but Phineus himself is nowhere to be found in the painting. Floating above Perseus, Pallas, his half-sister, holds a spear and a semi-translucent shield with Medusa’s head, which has a menacing appearance. In the top right corner, Andromeda watches the scene unfold through an archway.
Intertwined bodies and limbs litter the marble floor along with many other objects: shields and swords lie beside fruit, plates and cups which have tumbled off the broken table on the right. The pale green-grey skin of the dead or the figures turned to stone contrasts with their brightly coloured robes. Some of the figures shown here are mentioned in Ovid’s story: Nileus, dressed in blue, lunges towards Perseus, his arm and face about to turn to stone.
This painting was bought by the Gallery as a work by Nicolas Poussin, but it is now thought to have been painted by an assistant or an artist working around the same time. The crowded composition, muscular physiques and intense facial expressions of the figures shown here are common in Poussin’s paintings, but the painter of this work was less skilled at conveying them. The identity of the artist is unknown: he may be the Flemish painter Bertholet Flémal (1614–1675), his pupil Lambert Blendeff (1650–1721) or another artist in Flémal’s studio working in Liège (in Belgium) or in Rome around the same time as Poussin. The artist demonstrated great skill in painting certain parts of the picture: the colourful garland of flowers hanging above the scene and the folds of the figure’s white robe at the bottom of the painting are depicted in intricate detail.
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