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Mythological Scenes

6,996 artworks, 1,507 artists
Mythological scenes in painting depict the plots and characters of ancient myths, folk tales, legends and traditions. The culture of Ancient Greece and Rome gave humanity a lot of gods and heroes who lived an earthly life: they fought for power, created family alliances, accomplished feats and made intrigues. Mythology tells about character traits and relationships in human society: about the courage of tenderness, betrayal, motherhood or love. In the visual arts, the mythological genre was formed in the Middle Ages: it illustrated legends and traditions.

Images of antique heroes and gods appeared in the pre-Christian era and took an important place in the works by Renaissance artistsSandro Botticelli (1445—1510) created magical paintings, which contained ancient characters, and came to be seen as “the father of the mythological genre”. Renaissance artists used the aesthetic canons of ancient art and filled their works with hidden meaning, using fairy tales to illustrate the moral and ethical problems of man and society. In the 18th century, mythological scenes became part of the national ideology and began to contain social and political tones: depicting generals and rulers as ancient gods, artists conveyed state events through “heavenly” battle or genre scenes. In the 19—20th centuries, ethnic motifs and the culture of Slavs, Celts, Indians, and Africans came into fashion. The epic heroes and characters of the folk tales ousted the inhabitants of Olympus from the paintings.

In the center of the mythological scene are the gods, the heroes of fairy tales and legends, fairy creatures and fictional historical characters. The artist pays great attention to the image perspective and volume in order to give the viewer the realistic impression of what is happening. Numerous vivid images, attention to details, rich and dynamic subject, an abundance of nudity, distinguish this type of paintings. Using the play of light and shadow, bright hues, and deep contrast, painters brought their subjects to the forefront, created image depth, and enhanced the impact of the canvas on the viewer. The paintings contain secret symbols and subtle allegories: female nudity personifies purity and defenselessness, and ugly features indicate the artist’s attitude to the subject’s personality and actions. Therefore, for a full perception and understanding of the painting, you need to have some special knowledge about the subject and specific features of the era. Through mythological scenes, the artist opens a window into a fairy tale and awakens the viewer's imagination.

The paintings with mythological scenes: “Pallas and the Centaur” 1482, “Birth of Venus” 1485 by Sandro Botticelli; “The Triumph of Bacchus” 1629 by Diego Velázquez; “Bacchus and Ariadne” 1745 by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo; “The Mermaids” 1879 by Konstantin Makovsky; “The Demon Seated” 1890 by Mikhail Vrubel; “Warrior Knights” 1898, “The Sleeping Princess” 1926 Viktor Vasnetsov.

The artists who used mythological scenes in their paintings: Sandro Botticelli, Peter Paul Rubens, Diego Velázquez, Francisco Goya, Mikhail Vrubel, Viktor Vasnetsov.