Posts Tagged 'Apollo'

Reading the Cards: Part 4

This post is the fourth in a larger series finding connections between the ever-mystical tarot cards and the extraordinary collection of the Dallas Museum of Art. Head over to the first, second, and third posts for an introduction and earlier connections.

The Magician is the first trump card in a tarot deck.  Shown as a youthful figure, the Magician is often thought to represent Apollo, the Greek sun god.  This association speaks to bringing light to the darkness and addressing avoided issues.

Benjamin West, Apollo's Enchantment, 1807, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Robert A. Beyers

Benjamin West, Apollo’s Enchantment, 1807, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Robert A. Beyers

Surrounded by the pantheon of Greek gods and muses, Benjamin West’s Apollo is bathed in the light of the sun.  Apollo enchants his audience with his skill at the lyre, as he is the god of music as well as the sun.

The Moon is the eighteenth major arcana card.  With the face of the subconscious mind gazing calmly upon the scene, the Moon depicts a dog, wolf, and water creature of sorts (in this case a lobster).  The card often represents sleep patterns, dreams, and nightmares- with the animals shown symbolizing the fears of man.

Rufino Tamayo, El Hombre (Man), 1953, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association commission, Neiman-Marcus Company Exposition Funds

Rufino Tamayo, El Hombre (Man), 1953, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association commission, Neiman-Marcus Company Exposition Funds

Surrounding the theme of “man excelling himself,” Rufino Tamayo created the mural El Hombre as a commision for the Dallas Art Association.  Tamayo’s painted figure points into the starry sky in search of our place in the cosmos.  The dog in the lower-left corner blends into the dark ground as it gnaws on a bone- representing man’s baser instincts.

The Star is the seventeenth trump card.  Contributing liquid to both the pool of subconsciousness and the material world, a naked woman kneels directly beneath an exaggerated star.  In a tarot spread, the Star represents renewed hope, inspiration, and discovery.

Simon Starling, Venus Mirror (8/6/08, Copenhagen), 2011, Dallas Museum of Art, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund

Simon Starling, Venus Mirror (8/6/08, Copenhagen), 2011, Dallas Museum of Art, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund

Simon Starling’s mirror alludes to the original documentation of the planet Venus’ path accross the sky by Pierre César Jules Janssen.  Undertaken in 1974, the French astronomer developed a special daguerreotype camera to document Venus’ movement.  The telescope-camera hybrid recorded the multiple exposures on a single circular daguerreotype plate.

Strength is numbered as eleven or eight depending on the deck.  Historically titled Fortitude, the design has consistenly portrayed a lion submitting to the gentle touch of a woman.  When selected for a tarot reading, the card implies one’s control of the primal qualities of man.

Edward Hicks, The Peaceable Kingdom, 1846-1847, Dallas Museum of Art, The Art Museum League Fund

Edward Hicks, The Peaceable Kingdom, 1846-1847, Dallas Museum of Art, The Art Museum League Fund

Based on Christian scripture, Edward Hicks created a scene of spiritual and earthly harmony amongst men and animals.  At the left side of the painting, William Penn signs a peace treaty with the Native American peoples of the Delaware Valley- a historic model for peaceful coexistence.

The Sun is the nineteenth of the major arcana cards.  Riding beneath the anthropomorphized sun, a small child sits astride a white horse- both symbols of innocence and purity.  With the red flag representing renewal, this card points to personal power, optimism, and enlightenment.

Constantin Brancusi, Beginning of the World, c.1920, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. James H. Clark

Constantin Brancusi, Beginning of the World, c.1920, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. James H. Clark

Provocative in nature, the sculpture’s title, Beginning of the World, is full of potential associations.  When paired with the simple geometric and natural shapes, the title hints to new beginnings, concepts, and discoveries.

My next and final Reading the Cards post will look at Temperance, the Tower, the Wheel of Fortune, and the World.

Pilar Wong

McDermott Intern for Community Teaching

Greek Heroes at the DMA

Every time I give a tour, there is usually one student who asks if we have any works at the DMA that show Percy Jackson or Poseidon.  I began to wonder if our docents were hearing similar questions.  I also began to wonder if any of our docents actually knew who Percy Jackson is.  I’m always trying to think of new ways to help docents connect with the students on their tours, so I recommended that they read Rick Riordan‘s The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book One) for their book club. I fell in love with this book three years ago, and enjoy referencing it on tours.  Students are able to recognize images of the gods based on the descriptions they have read in Rick Riordan’s books.  They’re falling in love with Greek mythology, and we have lots of great artworks that can bring Percy’s world to life at the DMA!

Pierre-Victore Ledure’s Mantle Clock with Figure of Perseus show us not Perseus Jackson, but the Greek hero Perseus.  In Greek mythology, Perseus, the son of Zeus and Danae, was the hero who beheaded the Gorgon Medusa.  Although Percy Jackson also beheaded Medusa, he was the son of Poseidon.  In this mantle clock, we see Perseus about to slay a serpent with wings.  According to one myth, the Ethiopian princess Andromeda was chained to a rock near the sea in an effort to appease the sea nymphs, who were offended that Andromeda’s mother declared that she was more beautiful than them.  Andromeda was to be sacrificed to a sea serpent sent by Poseidon.  Perseus happened to be flying by on his winged horse, Pegasus, and he slipped on Hades’ Helm of Darkness and was able to slay the sea serpent.  Perseus went on to marry Andromeda and is considered one of the first heroes of Greek mythology.

Pierre-Victore Ledure, Mantle Clock with Figure of Perseus, early 19th century, Lent by David T. Owsley, 156.1994.51

When Percy Jackson arrives at Camp Half-Blood, the first creature he faces is the Minotaur.  The Minotaur has the body of a man, but the head of a bull, and is one of the most ferocious creatures in Greek mythology.  Contemporary artist Marcel Dzama created his own sculptural representation of The Minotaur in 2008.  Dzama’s Minotaur is even missing one of his horns–you might remember that the Minotaur’s horn was one of Percy’s most prized possessions.

Marcel Dzama, The Minotaur, 2008, Dallas Museum of Art, DMA/amFAR Benefit Auction Fund, 2008.43.2.A-E, © Marcel Dzama

Once he arrives at Camp Half-Blood, Percy learns that his favorite teacher, Mr. Brunner, is actually a centaur named Chiron.  Centaurs are creatures that are part human, part horse, and Chiron was considered to be the superior centaur.  He was intelligent, civilized, and kind.  Chiron taught many of the most famous Greek heroes, including Heracles, Jason, Achilles, and Perseus.  Salvador Dalí created this illustration of a centaur when he was illustrating Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Salvador Dali, Canto 25–The Centaur, c. 1960, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Lois and Howard B. Wolf, 1996.219.25, © 2008 Salvador Dalí, Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

During Percy’s adventures, he has run-ins with many of the major gods, the Olympians who reside on Mt. Olympus.  In ancient times, Mt. Olympus was located in Greece.  In the 21st century, Mt. Olympus is located in New York City–on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building!  One of my favorite works in the DMA’s collection shows the Olympians surrounding the figure of Apollo.  One of our docents told me yesterday that she had a group of students ask her to stop in front of this painting because they wanted to try to identify all of the gods.  Moving clockwise around the painting we see: Zeus, the king of the gods, at the top; Athena is to the right wearing her battle helmet; Ares is behind her, also dressed for battle; we recognize Artemis because of the crescent moon in her hair; beautiful Aphrodite wears a golden dress; Hermes carries his caduceus staff; Hera is shown enthroned, as the queen of the gods should be; and Poseidon is shown as an old, bearded man.  What I can’t figure out, though, is who the woman in the green dress might be.  She’s fully clothed, and there appears to be a building or fortress on top of her head.  Do you have any thoughts as to who she might represent?

Benjamin West, Apollo’s Enchantment, 1807, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Robert A. Beyers, 1963.167

These are just a few of the wonderful works of art in our collection that relate to Greek mythology and the world of Percy Jackson.  I hope you’ll come explore the galleries and find more connections of your own.

Shannon Karol
Manager of Docent Programs and Gallery Teaching


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