CASTIGLIONE, Giovanni Benedetto
(b. 1609, Genova, d. 1664, Mantova)

Pyrrha and Deucalion

Oil on canvas, 83 x 107 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

The story of a great flood occurs in the mythology of many races. The Greek version (Met. 1:348-415) tells of Deucalion, son of Prometheus, who, like Noah, escaped the destruction that overtook the rest of mankind by building an ark in which he floated for nine days with his wife Pyrrha. After the waters had subsided they were advised by an oracle to veil their heads and 'throw the bones of your great mother behind you', which they took to mean the rocks of Mother Earth. They did as they were bid, the rocks which Deucalion threw turning into men and Pyrrha's into women. Thus a new human race was created.

In the painting Pyrrha and Deucalion are shown in the act of casting the rocks. On the ground rocks change into men and women who scramble to their feet.