LE SUEUR, Eustache
(b. 1616/17, Paris, d. 1655, Paris)

The Muses: Clio, Euterpe and Thalia

1652-55
Oil on wood, 130 x 130 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Le Sueur was the pupil of Vouet. This painting and its companion piece depicting Melpomene, Erato and Polyhymnia were used to decorate the Cabinet of the Muses of the Hotel Lambert in Paris. These charming, delicately painted pictures foreshadow the coming of Poussin.

The muses are the goddesses of creative inspiration in poetry, song and other arts, they are the companions of Apollo. They were the daughters of Jupiter and the Titaness Mnemosyne (memory) who had lain together for nine consecutive nights. The muses were originally nymphs who presided over springs that had the power to give inspiration, especially Aganippe and Hippocrene on Mount Helicon and the Castilian spring on Mount Parnassus. The nine muses and their usual attributions are the following.

Clio, the muse of history (book, scroll or tablet and stylus).

Euterpe, the muse of music, lyric poetry (flute, trumpet or other instrument).

Thalia, the muse of comedy, pastoral poetry (scroll, small viol, masks).

Melpomene, the muse of tragedy (horn, tragic masks, sword or dagger, crown held in hand, sceptres lying at feet).

Terpsichore, the muse of dancing and song (viol, lyre, or other stringed instrument, harp, crowned with flowers).

Erato, the muse of lyric and love poetry (tambourine, lyre, swan, a putto at her feet).

Urania, the muse of astronomy (globe and compasses, crowned with a circle of stars).

Calliope, the muse of epic poetry (trumpet, tablet and stylus, books, holds laurel crown).

Polyhymnia (or Polymnia), the muse of heroic hymns (portative organ, lute or other instrument).