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The Roman poet Ovid was born in 43 BC at Sulmo, near Rome. At the age of 50 he was exiled to Tomis on the Black Sea where he died in the year 17 AD. Delacroix imagines what Ovid's exile was like in his painting Ovid among the Scythians in the collection.

He is chiefly famed for the 'Metamorphoses', a long verse narrative which retells ancient Greek and Roman legends, unifying them as a sequence and through the theme of the title. The poem, originally written in Latin, was translated and much admired in the Middle Ages; it subsequently provided a rich source of subject matter for artists as diverse as the Pollaiuolo brothers, Titian and Poussin.

Other well-known poems by him include the 'Fasti', which describes the rites of the pagan Roman calendar, and the 'Ars Amatoria' (the 'Art of Love').