Sunday, February 6, 2011

Unrequited Love...

'Clytie' by Lord Frederic Leighton

Ovid's Metamorphoses - Clytie and Apollo
Put simply, Clytie loved Apollo but was rejected by him.  Apollo loved Daphne but she didn't love him and prayed to the river god, Peneus or Gaia and was transformed into a laurel, which greatly pleased Clytie but Apollo had lost the love of his life.

Apollo abandoned Clytie and she sat, naked on rocks for nine days without food or water, staring at the sun (Apollo), after which the Gods transformed her into a beautiful 'turnsole', which is Old English for a rock plant that turns its head to the sun (heliotrope).  

'So-called' bust of Clytie, created in 40 or 50AD

So-called because the provenance of the bust has an ambiguous history, some referring to her as Agrippina and it has been contended that it is an 18th Century work.  But a later conclusion is that it is an ancient Antonia Minor, or a Roman Ariadne.  Towneley himself named her 'Isis in a lotus flower' but the common belief is that she is in fact, Clytie.  During his grand tour of Italy in 1771-74, Towneley acquired the bust from the Neapolitan Laurenzano family, who insisted that it had been found locally.  The bust was widely preproduced; it is said that Goethe, alone, had two casts of it.

Towneley in his Park Street house with three fellow connoisseurs
An imaginery painting by Johann Zoffany, 1733-1810
The Clytie bust is sitting on a small writing table

Towneley (he changed the spelling to Townley) 
had a purpose-built house constructed for
his marble collection at Park Street in London's West End,
where he died in 1805.

Left:  Clytie bust by George Frederick Watts showing her metamorphosing into a flower.

Right:  Clytie bust by Hiram Powers

Clytie grieving
Peter Paul Rubens, 1636

Footnote: I've never been a scholar of Greek mythology, nor pretended to understand it; I went looking for the story of Clytie after seeing a reproduction of Towneley's bust on 'Antiques Roadshow'.  I'm happy to be corrected by anyone with higher knowledge....Alaine.  


Betsy said...

I'm not an expert either, but I always find the stories so interesting!

Towneley really had quite an impressive marble collection! I almost missed his two friends there hidden among the statues! ha.

alaine@éclectique said...

Betsy...Greek mythology inspired so many works of art! Some of the stories are really weird! I'm now wondering if his Park Street house is still open... Lovely to 'see' you!

alaine@éclectique said...

I've just established that the Towneley marbles were bought for the British Museum in 1805, the year Towneley died.

steven said...

alaine - what an intriguing story. i can't get past having a purpose built house for anything . . . . but there it is!!! steven

alaine@éclectique said...'re always so kind. It was typical of the upper-class in the 17th & 18th to go on the essential Grand Tour, collect antiquities....and then build a very own museum to house them!

maggie's garden said...

Oh I have missed you....just making the rounds and you were next on my roll call when I see you have already paid me a visit. I do so appreciate you stopping in. It's good to be back. Wish I had been on a trip. Your busts are beautiful! ha!

LA POUYETTE - und die "Dinge des Lebens" said...

Again - beautiful and interesting post!

Could easily live a day or two per month in Zoffany's room.


alaine@éclectique said...

La Pouyette...Oh, yes, Karin, it would be marvellous but with some new armchairs to sink into!

Julie@beingRUBY said...

Hi Alaine
I love Greek Mythology and don't pretend to be an expert either.. perhaps we can blame them for all the unrequited love and angst!! ha

Thanks for popping over.. I'm so slow to blog and visit at present so my apologies. Have a lovely week.. ciao xxx Julie

alaine@éclectique said... your sense of humour...yes, we'll blame them!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing all this info. I must confess that I'd never heard of Clytie before reading this. Poor silly lass. As for Daphne's story: hmm, do you really think that Apollo had lost the love of his life? Or just his latest passing lust-object? I've always felt he must have been a pretty extreme stalker, if she felt turning into a tree was preferable to his attentions! (Much as I love trees, but still...)