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About This Artwork
Apollo and Marsyas, 1888
Oil on board
101 x 73.5 cm (39 3/4 x 28 7/8 in.)
Through prior gift of Henry Morgen, Ann G. Morgen, Meyer Wasser, and Ruth G. Wasser, 2008.555
Along with Arnold Böcklin, Hans Thoma was a leading Northern European figure in the shift from Realism and history painting to art inspired by classical myths and legends. Taken from Ovid’s epic poem Metamorphoses, Thoma showed the satyr Marsyas challenging Apollo, the master of the lyre, to a musical contest. Although he avoided depicting the cruel outcome of the match (the satyr lost and was flayed alive by Apollo), the artist’s treatment of Apollo, whose idealized body and luminous skin set him apart from the shadowy halftones of his challenger, hints at the winner. Thoma’s painted frame may also have been inspired by a tale from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.