Apollo and Marsyas
Guido Reni was one of the most widely admired painters in France in the 17th and 18th centuries as his noble, classical painting corresponded to national aesthetic canons. For a painter enamoured with Antique beauty, mythology was a living subject and a source of inspiration. The theme of Apollo and Marsyas, the tragic encounter between a god and a satyr who dares measure up to him, illustrates the opposition between learned high culture symbolised by the god’s lyre and popular music represented by the panpipes. The contrast between the milky pallor of Apollo, hyperborean divinity, with the coppery complexion of Marsyas accentuates this cultural and social gulf. Reni, one of the great painters of the Bolognese school, active in Rome and in Naples before returning to his home town, addressed this subject twice. The painting in the Musée des Augustins dates from around 1619. It comes from the Royal Palace of Turin. Its elegant choreography glosses over the extreme violence of the satyr’s torment as Apollo skins him alive.