Myths are stories that explain why the world is the way it is. –


Myths are stories that explain why the world is the way it is. All cultures have them. Throughout history, artists have been inspired by myths and legends and have given them visual form. Sometimes these works of art are the only surviving record of what particular cultures believed and valued. But even where written records or oral traditions exist, art adds to our understanding of myths and legends. Popular myths include Creation Myths, Hero Myths and God Myths. Particularly popular in western art and culture are the myths of the ancient Greeks/Romans – interestingly, these myths continued to be popular subjects in art long after the Fall of Rome throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. 


This assignment will give you the opportunity to think carefully about the relationship between text and image in the ancient and medieval worlds. The visual arts were frequently employed in both periods to convey narrative, to tell a story, whether mythological, historical, political, ideological, etc. You will be required to design a visual program depicting a specific, popular myth for an ancient or medieval patron.

 Select one of the following commission options:

 1) A wealthy Roman nobleman of the 1 st century CE has commissioned a large-scale sculpture group from you for an upcoming celebration at his lavish villa just outside of Rome. He wants something dramatic and sophisticated – a work that will really impress his guests. A lover of the great myths of Greece and Rome, he provides you with a few of his favorite Graeco-Roman myths to choose from (see below).

2) Your uncle, a wealthy Athenian of the late-5th century BCE, is holding a lavish symposium next month. To really suggest his wealth and sophistication to his guests, he would like you to design a new large-scale krater, which will be used to mix water and wine for the event. A lover of dramatic stories from Greek religion, he has given you a few narrative options to choose from to represent on the belly of the new krater (see below).

 3) The Byzantine Emperor Justinian I would like to give a precious gift to his beloved wife Theodora on the anniversary of their marriage. He has come to you, a well-known Constantinopolitan metalworker, to produce a large silver plate with scenes from one of Theodora’s favorite ancient myths. He has provided you with a few options to choose from (see below). He would like the style of the imagery to reflect Theodora’s love of Classical art and architecture. 

4) The King of France, Louis IX, desires a new illuminated manuscript. Rather than another Bible for his vast library, he would like something based on the great myths of the ancient world. He has commissioned you, a Parisian illuminator, do design a sampling of miniatures (2-3) depicting one of his favorite myths – he has given you a few to choose from (see below). He requests that the style of illumination be fitting for the Parisian court and that you use the finest pigments and ample gold. 

From the excerpts provided below, you must choose one narrative to portray in your work of art. You must select the appropriate medium for the work, taking into consideration the period and function of the work. You must then determine the period style of the work and prepare to carefully describe your formal language, artistic influences, etc. You then will need to determine the format, composition and iconography of your work of art, making sure it is appropriate to the time period and conveys the mythological story (or risk dissatisfaction from you patron!). You should briefly compare/contrast your work of art with “inspiration” pieces examined in lecture or in the textbook – this will anchor your design choices. Proper art historical vocabulary is essential! 

There are three major goals for this assignment. First, this project will evaluate your understanding of the processes, forms and styles of ancient or medieval art by asking you to address the needs of an ancient or medieval patron. The design of your object or monument should adhere to the appropriate stylistic, cultural, and technological criteria of your period (e.g., a Greek temple with a vaulted, concrete roof would show an incorrect understanding of the culture, technology, and materials used by the Greeks). Second, it will evaluate your ability to articulate in writing the details of your design, using appropriate art historical vocabulary and descriptive analysis. You can also identify works of art that inspired your design but make sure your design is original. Third, the project affords you the opportunity to explore the artistic processes used by ancient artists first hand.


First, you must produce a series of sketches, drawings or a model of the final product of your commission. You may execute these preparatory designs using any materials you see fit or are comfortable with – that is, for our purposes, they need not be historically appropriate. The model(s) should include an overall view as well as details in order clarify elements of the design (format, composition and iconographic elements). All drawings or models will be evaluated on the basis of their ability to convey the ideas of the project, and their professionalism (i.e., neatly drawn, wellpresented, professional, etc.) not your skill. 

Second, you must write a thoughtful and researched paper of 3-4 pages explaining your design in the context of your materials, process and style as well as the historical context and mythological narrative. The paper fully should explain the choices made for the design (i.e., Which narrative did you choose and why? Who is depicted – how did you structure the visual narrative for the sake of drama, clarity? How did you select the iconographic elements, and how do these relate to contemporary examples?) Do not solely answer these questions, but discuss as many key aspects of your choices and final design as possible.

 *Note: the paper is certainly the more important component of this assignment, so make sure it is written with clarity of vision and has been thoroughly edited before submission. 


o 3-4 pages, typed, double-spaced, 1-inch margins (you will probably need to adjust formatting if you are using Word), 12-point font, New Times Roman (or comparable)

o Include a title page (which does not count as one of the numbered pages) with your name, paper title, course, my name, and date 

o Pages must be numbered

o If you consult sources (including your textbook and Grove / Oxford), they must be cited and you must include a works cited page. You may use in-text citations. For information on proper see:

o Staple your paper and find a suitable method for attaching it to your design/plan


 *Select one myth to portray in your work of art 

Daphne and Apollo (excerpt from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book I) 

*The story of Daphne, a great beauty who wished to remain a chaste virgin but was the object of the god Apollo’s wild affections viz. a forest chase scene – she goes to great extremes to avoid his advances of love.

“Daphne, the daughter of a River God was first beloved by Apollo, the great God of glorious light. ‘Twas not a cause of chance but out of Cupid’s vengeful spite that she was fated to torment the lord of light… When he [Apollo] saw her waxed distraught, and filled with wonder his sick fancy raised delusive hopes, and his own oracles deceived him. As the stubble in the field flares up, or as the stacked wheat is consumed by flames, enkindled from a spark or torch the chance pedestrian may neglect at dawn; so was the bosom of the god consumed, and so desire flamed in his stricken heart. He saw her bright hair waving on her neck, “How beautiful if properly arranged! ” He saw her eyes like stars of sparkling fire, her lips for kissing sweetest, and her hands and fingers and her arms; her shoulders white as ivory; and whatever was not seen more beautiful must be. Swift as the wind from his pursuing feet the virgin fled, and neither stopped nor heeded as he called; “O Nymph! O Daphne! I entreat thee stay, it is no enemy that follows thee—why, so the lamb leaps from the raging wolf, and from the lion runs the timid faun, and from the eagle flies the trembling dove, all hasten from their natural enemy but I alone pursue for my dear love. Alas, if thou shouldst fall and mar thy face, or tear upon the bramble thy soft thighs, or should I prove unwilling cause of pain! The wilderness is rough and dangerous, and I beseech thee be more careful—I will follow slowly. She seemed most lovely to his fancy in her flight; and mad with love he followed in her steps, and silent hastened his increasing speed. As when the greyhound sees the frightened hare flit over the plain. With eager nose outstretched, impetuous, he rushes on his prey, and gains upon her till he treads her feet, and almost fastens in her side his fangs; but she, whilst dreading that her end is near, is suddenly delivered from her fright; so was it with the god and virgin: one with hope pursued, the other fled in fear; and he who followed, borne on wings of love, permitted her no rest and gained on her, until his warm breath mingled in her hair. Her strength spent, pale and faint, with pleading eyes she gazed upon her father’s waves and prayed, “Help me my father, if thy flowing streams have virtue! Cover me, O mother Earth! Destroy the beauty that has injured me, or change the body that destroys my life.” Before her prayer was ended, torpor seized on all her body, and a thin bark closed around her gentle bosom, and her hair became as moving leaves; her arms were changed to waving branches, and her active feet as clinging roots were fastened to the ground – her face was hidden with encircling leaves.—Apollo admired and loved the graceful tree, (For still, though changed, her slender form remained) and with his right hand lingering on the trunk he felt her bosom throbbing in the bark. He clung to trunk and branch as though to twine. His form with hers, and fondly kissed the wood that shrank from every kiss.” 

Diana and Endymion (excerpt from Bullfinch’s Stories of Gods and Heroes)

*The story of the beautiful youth shepherd boy Endymion, who caught the attention of Diana (the moon) while he was sleeping. The virgin goddess was so charmed by his beauty that she came down and kissed him.

“One evening, after her brother Apollo, the sun god, had put away his fiery steeds for the day, Diana took her glistening moon chariot across the sky. She had not gone halfway when, casting a moonbeam down upon a hilltop, she saw a handsome young shepherd fast asleep on the grass.

Diana swept noiselessly down to earth in her chariot and gently kissed the youth. Endymion. Half awakened by the kiss. Endymion stared bewitched at the lovely goddess as she hastened away. Already Endymion was in love with her. The next night, he lay upon the same hill, feigning sleep, in the hope of catching sight of Diana again. And she, just as enamored as he was, again came down to earth and kissed him. Night after night Diana stopped her journey across the sky to kiss the shepherd. And night after night he waited for her upon the hilltop, watching through half-shut eyes as she glided down to him. Diana, of course, was in a dilemma. She was hopelessly in love with this mere mortal, but she had sworn to the gods that she would never marry. At length, determined that if she could not marry Endymion herself then no one else would, she put him into an eternal sleep and carried him off to a secret cave.” 

Achilles and Hector (excerpt from Homer’s Illiad, Book 22)

*During the Trojan War, the powerful Trojan Hector issued a general challenge of single combat to a Greek warrior, which was taken up by the noble warrior Ajax.

“They [the Greeks] prayed, and Ajax armed himself in his suit of gleaming bronze. When he was in full array he sprang forward as monstrous Mars when he takes part among men whom Jove has set fighting with one another- even so did huge Ajax, bulwark of the Achaeans, spring forward with a grim smile on his face as he brandished his long spear and strode onward… The Trojans trembled in every limb, and the heart even of Hector beat quickly, but he could not now retreat and withdraw into the ranks behind him, for he had been the challenger. Ajax came up bearing his shield in front of him like a wall- a shield of bronze with seven folds of oxhide- the work of Tychius, who lived in Hyle and was by far the best worker in leather. He had made it with the hides of seven full-fed bulls, and over these he had set an eighth layer of bronze. Holding this shield before him, Ajax son of Telamon came close up to Hector, and menaced him saying, “Hector, you shall now learn, man to man, what kind of champions the Danaans have among them even besides lion-hearted Achilles cleaver of the ranks of men. And Hector answered, “Noble Ajax, son of Telamon, captain of the host, treat me not as though I were some puny boy or woman that cannot fight. I have been long used to the blood and butcheries of battle. I am quick to turn my leathern shield either to right or left, for this I deem the main thing in battle. I can charge among the chariots and horsemen, and in hand to hand fighting can delight the heart of Mars; howbeit I would not take such a man as you are off his guard – but I will smite you openly if I can.”

(  If you choose a proj, need i draw something, please tell me what to draw, thank you )

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