About this artwork
These twelve drawings depict scenes from the French novel The Adventures of Telemachus (Les aventures de Télémaque) by François Fénelon. First published in 1699, it was one of the most popular books of the 1700s and 1800s.
Telemachus is the son of Ulysses from Homer’s Odyssey, the first four books of which describe the hero’s search for his father. Fénelon invented further adventures for Telemachus, in which he undergoes many trials while accompanied by his tutor, Mentor, who is actually the goddess Minerva (the embodiment of wisdom) in human disguise. A scathing critique of autocratic government and a diatribe against war, the book denounces luxury and decadence and calls for the simplicity and equality Fénelon believed ancient Greece best exemplified.
Pinelli illustrated scenes from books 1–8 and one scene from book 18, and probably planned to illustrate more from the 24 books of the text. Throughout, he celebrates the heroic nude, displaying a deep knowledge of ancient Roman sculpture. His style, influenced by Jacques-Louis David and John Flaxman, is characterized by bold, almost cartoonish contours, monochromatic washes, and frieze-like arrangements of figures.
On their way from Greece to Italy, Telemachus and Mentor are shipwrecked by Neptune on the island of Calypso. Telemachus’s account of his adventures to Calypso ends here, and the next phase of his adventures begins.
The owl shown here is Minerva’s attribute and signals that Mentor is Minerva. The word “mentor” that we use today comes from his name.
- Currently Off View
- Prints and Drawings
- Bartolomeo Pinelli
- Mentor and Telemachus, Having Survived the Storm, Are Spirited to the Island of Calypso on a Mast, from The Adventures of Telemachus, Book 6
- Pen and black ink, with brush and gray and brown wash, over traces of black chalk on ivory laid paper, laid down on board
- 465 × 591 mm (sight); 558 × 665 mm (overall)
- Wirt D. Walker Fund