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Triskaidekaphobia

Why exactly are we scared of Friday the 13th? Is it the religious connotation? Or the eponymous movies? Or any one of a number of other tales? Or the fact that we get a tiny thrill out of being scared?

In “celebration” of this day, Annie M. from Museum Education gave an Express Talk on Bad Luck. Jocelin S. and I joined her and about 40 museum visitors for a quick jaunt through some of the more ominous works in the collection…

Our first stop was Rubens’s Wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Weddings are normally lovely occasions, but this one was marred by the vanities of the Greek goddesses…not something you want to mess with. When Discordia, the goddess of discord was not invited to the nuptials, she threw an apple over the fence to the reception table with a note stating that it was “for the fairest among the guests.” In the painting, you can see Venus gesturing that clearly this apple is for her. Among others, Juno and Minerva do not agree. And this, my friends, was the start of the Trojan War.

Another painting we discussed was Thoma’s Apollo and Marsyas. This recent acquisition (in an original frame) also has mythological roots, featuring a showdown between Apollo and Marsyas. Marsyas foolishly challenges Apollo to a musical contest—Marsyas on the flute and Apollo on the harp—with the winner gaining the ability to do whatever he wants to the loser. It was a close race, but after Apollo played the harp upside-down, the muses had to declare a victor. It would be the understatement of the century to say that Apollo was a gracious winner…instead he flayed Marsyas alive.

Good luck to you all!

Peter Paul Rubens. The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis, 1636. The Charles H. and Mary F.S. Worcester Collection.

Hans Thoma. Apollo and Marsyas, 1888. Through prior gift of Henry Morgen, Ann G. Morgen, Meyer Wasser, and Ruth G. Wasser.