MYTHOLOGY

ANDRÉ DURAND Twenty-First Century Paintings

ARACHNE by André Durand (2002) (Ovid, Arachne, zodiac, spider, web, Athena)

ARACHNE

2002

Dimensions: 114.5 x 190.5

Oil on linen

mythology

Source
Arachne was a fine weaver in Hypaepa of Lydia. She was as skillful as the finest artist of the day and much praise was given to her in Hypaepa, where she had her workshop.

This all went to her head and eventually Arachne became so conceited of her skill as a weaver that she began claiming that her skill was greater than that of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war as well as the weaving arts. Athena was angered, but gave Arachne a chance to redeem herself. Assuming the form of an old woman, she warned Arachne not to offend the gods. Arachne scoffed and wished for a weaving contest, so she could prove her skill. Athena dropped her disguise and the contest began.

Athena wove the scene of mortals being punished for hubris. Arachne wove the gods being idiots.

Even Athena admitted that Arachne’s work was immaculate. Her envy at such human competition drove her into uncontrolled fury and violence. Perhaps she was as well outraged at Arachne’s disrespectful choice of subjects that displayed the failings and transgressions of the gods (this takes for granted a late, moralizing view of Greek myth). Losing her temper, she destroyed Arachne’s tapestry and loom, striking it with her shuttle, and struck Arachne on the head as well, slashing her face. Arachne, refusing to bow to Athena, hanged herself: “Nor could Arachne take such punishment: She’d rather hang herself than bow her head.” (The moralizing perspective suggests that she “realized her folly and was crushed with shame.”).

In Ovid’s telling, Athena took pity or spite on Arachne. Sprinkling her with the juices of aconite, Athena loosened the rope, which became a spider web, causing Arachne to lose her hair, her ears and nose, metamorphosing into a spider. “So you shall live to swing, to live now and forever, Even to the last hanging creature of your kind.” The story suggests that the origin of weaving lay in imitation of spiders and that it was considered to have been perfected first in Asia Minor.

“This the bright Goddess passionately mov’d,
With envy saw, yet inwardly approv’d.
The scene of heav’nly guilt with haste she tore,
Nor longer the affront with patience bore;
A boxen shuttle in her hand she took,
And more than once Arachne’s forehead struck.
Th’ unhappy maid, impatient of the wrong,
Down from a beam her injur’d person hung;
When Pallas, pitying her wretched state,
At once prevented, and pronounc’d her fate:
Live; but depend, vile wretch, the Goddess cry’d,
Doom’d in suspence for ever to be ty’d;
That all your race, to utmost date of time,
May feel the vengeance, and detest the crime
.

Then, going off, she sprinkled her with juice,
Which leaves of baneful aconite produce.
Touch’d with the pois’nous drug, her flowing hair
Fell to the ground, and left her temples bare;
Her usual features vanish’d from their place,
Her body lessen’d all, but most her face.
Her slender fingers, hanging on each side
With many joynts, the use of legs supply’d:
A spider’s bag the rest, from which she gives
A thread, and still by constant weaving lives
.

This the bright Goddess passionately mov’d,
With envy saw, yet inwardly approv’d.
The scene of heav’nly guilt with haste she tore,
Nor longer the affront with patience bore;
A boxen shuttle in her hand she took,
And more than once Arachne’s forehead struck.
Th’ unhappy maid, impatient of the wrong,
Down from a beam her injur’d person hung;
When Pallas, pitying her wretched state,
At once prevented, and pronounc’d her fate:
Live; but depend, vile wretch, the Goddess cry’d,
Doom’d in suspence for ever to be ty’d;
That all your race, to utmost date of time,
May feel the vengeance, and detest the crime
.

Then, going off, she sprinkled her with juice,
Which leaves of baneful aconite produce.
Touch’d with the pois’nous drug, her flowing hair
Fell to the ground, and left her temples bare;
Her usual features vanish’d from their place,
Her body lessen’d all, but most her face.
Her slender fingers, hanging on each side
With many joynts, the use of legs supply’d:
A spider’s bag the rest, from which she gives
A thread, and still by constant weaving lives
.

This the bright Goddess passionately mov’d,
With envy saw, yet inwardly approv’d.
The scene of heav’nly guilt with haste she tore,
Nor longer the affront with patience bore;
A boxen shuttle in her hand she took,
And more than once Arachne’s forehead struck.
Th’ unhappy maid, impatient of the wrong,
Down from a beam her injur’d person hung;
When Pallas, pitying her wretched state,
At once prevented, and pronounc’d her fate:
Live; but depend, vile wretch, the Goddess cry’d,
Doom’d in suspence for ever to be ty’d;
That all your race, to utmost date of time,
May feel the vengeance, and detest the crime
.

Then, going off, she sprinkled her with juice,
Which leaves of baneful aconite produce.
Touch’d with the pois’nous drug, her flowing hair
Fell to the ground, and left her temples bare;
Her usual features vanish’d from their place,
Her body lessen’d all, but most her face.
Her slender fingers, hanging on each side
With many joynts, the use of legs supply’d:
A spider’s bag the rest, from which she gives
A thread, and still by constant weaving lives
."

Ovid: Metamorphoses
Translated by Sir Samuel Garth, John Dryden,

Book the Sixth