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Twisted Tales

Writers have been twisting the classics since ancient times. The Romans re-wrote the end of the Iliad to give themselves heroic origins. Chaucer and Shakespeare made their reputations re-working Italian classics. Alternative versions are less common in the plastic arts, presumably because it is harder to tell a clear story with a single image or object. These are two of my favourite examples, both by nineteenth century French artists.

The first is by Gustave Doré who illustrated the myth of Perseus and Andromeda several times in the conventional way. He also made two engravings entitled Perseus Comes Too Late, in which the dragon gets his dinner. The images succeed in being simultaneously gruesome and amusing.

The second is by a pretty obscure neo-classical sculptor called Alphonse Thabard. In 1889 he made a marble sculpture for the town hall of his native Limoges. Called Le Vainqueur (The Victor), it appears to show Ganymede getting the best of serial rapist Zeus, who is on the point of having his neck broken. Although in this example the villain gets his come-uppance, the overall effect is quite similar to Doré’s Perseus.