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A classical story from Ovid

The story shown in this picture would have been familiar to any educated person in 1500. (At that time, education emphasized an intimate knowledge of Latin and Greek literature.) This particular story is taken from Ovid. A painting, like a snapshot, captures a moment in time. However, centuries ago, in order to tell a story, a sequence of events was sometimes painted in the same picture. The Feast of the Gods shows a sexual assault about to occur and how it was averted.

In the forest, classical gods (Apollo, Jupiter, Neptune, etc.) dressed as Venetian gentlemen, are cavorting with satyrs and semi-clad nymphs. Bacchus is dispensing wine liberally from an enormous cask and everyone falls into a drunken stupor ... except for Priapus who, raising the skirt of the beautiful nymph Lotis, is about to ravish her. At that point, Silenus’ donkey brays, waking everyone up. The startled nymph will push Priapus away and he will be laughed at by all. The story had just and unjust consequences, not shown here. Priapus was rightly banished but Lotis was turned into a locust tree.


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