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Vittore Carpaccio, The Departure of Ceyx

Key facts
Full title The Departure of Ceyx
Artist Vittore Carpaccio
Artist dates active 1490; died 1525/6
Date made probably about 1502-7
Medium and support Oil on spruce
Dimensions 74.9 × 88.9 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3085
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Departure of Ceyx
Vittore Carpaccio

This panel shows the first part of the story of Alcyone and her husband Ceyx from the Metamorphoses, a poem by the Roman writer Ovid. It is continued in another panel, made as its pair (now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art).

A boat waits to take Ceyx to the large wooden ship in the distance, upon which he will sail to the oracle at Claros. An oracle was a divinely inspired priest or priestess who would offer advice and answer questions. Alcyone, who had a premonition of a violent storm at sea, is on her knees begging Ceyx not to go.

Alcyone’s prediction came true. The Philadelphia panel shows Ceyx’s drowned body and Alcyone, appalled at the sight of it, launching herself into the sea. Their tragic end provoked a god to spare them both, transforming them into birds which appear to the left of the Philadelphia panel.

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