The scene of Apollo combines two different moments in the story of Apollo and Aesculapius: in the foreground, Apollo brings his baby son Aesculapius to Chiron, a Centaur who was half man and half horse. Apollo had killed the baby’s mother, Coronis, in a jealous rage for being unfaithful, immediately regretted his rash act and attempted to revive her. When he failed, he rescued his unborn son from her womb and presented him to Chiron to raise as a foster child. In the background, by a small cottage, is a later scene in which Chiron’s daughter appears to him and Aesculapius, now a toddler, and begins chanting the secrets of the Fates. After she reveals some prophecies related to the fates of Aesculapius and Chiron, the Fates turn her into a mare so she can no longer speak intelligibly and divulge any more information, but only neigh like a horse.
The scene depicted in the engraving of Cadmus and the dragon is from the story in which Cadmus searches for his sister, Europa, who has been abducted by Jupiter in the form of a bull. On his journey, he sends his companions on an errand to fetch water. The scene in the engraving shows them on the banks of a stream, encountering an enormous snakelike dragon that is about to attack and kill them. Another engraving by Goltzius (not offered here) shows Cadmus, having discovered the bodies of his dead friends, slaying the dragon.
Hendrick Goltzius was a Dutch printmaker, draftsman and painter and a leading practitioner of the Dutch Mannerist style. He came from a family of artists. He was known above all for his engravings, and executed more than 300 prints, running a major printmaking workshop in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. From 1590 to 1591, he traveled in Germany and Italy. His most ambitious project was probably his series of engravings of scenes of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Apparently, Goltzius planned to draft at least 20 designs for each book. He did complete the 40 intended for Books I and II, in 1589 and around 1590 respectively, in his own workshop. However, he only finished eight prints for Book III and four for Book IV, which were engraved by Robert de Baudous in 1615 with verses by G. Rykius.
Latin verse, lower margin, Apollo:
Insontem sobolem, nec sonte Chironide, Apollo
Parte viro tradit, parteque tradit equo.
Chironis tandem, post dicta oracla, biformis
Paulatim formam filia sumit equae.
Latin verse, lower margin, Dragon:
Abstrusum ut Tÿrii Iouis in libamina fontem
Infausto tetigêre gradu, ferus exilit Anguis,
Invaditque viros, atqye atrâ tabe trementes
Occupat, et longo miseros sinuamine perdit.
Publication information, Apollo: Numbered 35 lower left.
Publication information, Dragon: inv. Rob. de Baudosu Esc, 2.
Condition: Generally very good, recently professional cleaned and deacidified with only minor remaining toning and wear.
Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 4, p. 333.
Kinney, Daniel and Elizabeth Styron. “Ovid Illustrated: The Renaissance Reception of Ovid in Image and Text.” University of Virginia. http://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/dePasseNew.html (25 June 2018)
Kline, A.S. “Ovid: The Metamorphoses, Book II.” Poetry in Translation. 2000. https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/Metamorph2.php (26 June 2018).
Kline, A.S. “Ovid: The Metamorphoses, Book III.” Poetry in Translation. 2000. https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/Metamorph3.php (26 June 2018).