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Melchior Meier

(German, active in Italy, ca. 1572–82)

Apollo and Marsyas, with the Judgment of Midas

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Object Details

Artist

Melchior Meier

Date

1581

Medium

Engraving

Dimensions

Plate: 9 1/8 × 12 3/16 inches (23.2 × 31 cm)

Credit Line

Acquired through the Professor and Mrs. M. H. Abrams Purchase Fund

Object
Number

2018.085

Meier was active in Florence at the court of the Medici Grand dukes of Tuscany in the 1570s, where h(…)

Meier was active in Florence at the court of the Medici Grand dukes of Tuscany in the 1570s, where he served Ferdinando de’ Medici, to whom this print bears a dedication on the plaque in the tree at left.

Here, the satyr Marsyas has challenged Apollo to a musical duel, foolishly setting his pan pipes against Apollo’s lyre. Apollo has exacted his punishment and skinned the unfortunate with a knife. Meier combines this story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses with a similar one in which King Midas (seen at right) judges a musical competition between Pan and Apollo, unwisely awarding Pan the prize and receiving ass’s ears from Apollo as retribution.

This complex print presents at least three different imaginings of the nude body. Apollo’s beautiful, classically proportioned physique at center recalls the famous Apollo Belvedere in the Vatican. At right, the body of King Midas wears a classicizing breastplate that counterfeits Apollo’s real physical beauty. At left, Marsyas’s flayed corpse splays out, its musculature carefully exposed in the form of an anatomical figure, or écorché. This, along with the flayed skin held up by Apollo, shows the effect of anatomical treatises on the field of art. And while the dedication of the print to Duke Ferdinando is certainly meant to liken him to the comely Apollo, the anatomical inclusion may also reference the duke’s interest in science and the core artistic belief that good art springs from the study of the human form.

(“Undressed: The Nude in Context, 1500-1750,” text by Andrew C. Weislogel and presented at the Johnson Museum February 9-June 16, 2019)

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