May 25, 2018

The Flaying of Marsyas

The Flaying of Marsyas

c. 1570–1605

Jan van der Straet, called Johannes Stradanus

(Netherlandish, active Italy, 1523–1605)

Pen and brown ink and brown and red washes, heightened with white paint (or gouache), on paper prepared with red washes

Sheet: 21.1 x 31.5 cm (8 5/16 x 12 3/8 in.)

Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 2018.26



In this gruesome mythological scene, Apollo begins to flay, or peel the skin off, the satyr Marsyas as punishment for his arrogant challenge in a musical contest. The surrounding Olympian gods show reactions ranging from horror to fascination. The artist Johannes Stradanus helped found the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno (Academy of the Arts of Drawing) in Florence in 1563, which instituted a course of training for artists that included observing a human dissection. In making this image, Stradanus very likely understood the flaying of Marsyas as a metaphor for the importance of dissection and anatomical study to the artist.

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