(b. 1548, Venezia, d. 1628, Venezia)

Apollo and Marsyas (1)

Oil on canvas, 134 x 195 cm
Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig

The characteristic artist of Venetian mannerism, the young Palma (the grandson of the brother of Palma Vecchio) divided the story into two parts and painted a matching set of paintings based on it. The first picture depicts the musical contest between Apollo and Marsyas in the presence of Midas, the king of Lydia. The central character is Apollo, dressed in a red robe with his laurel-garlanded head bent over the violin.

Instead of Marsyas's own instrument, the Phrygian double recorder, a syrinx or shepherd's pipe appears in the second picture in front of King Midas. He deemed its music superior to the sound of Apollo's divine instrument and was punished by growing ass's ears. The pagan flutist, however, received harsher punishment: the majestic but merciless young god is preparing to have him flayed.

The landscape background with clear blue sky in both paintings evokes the world of myths, in which the happiness and cruel justice of the eternal gods coexist for the edification of the observer.

Thus in this artistic conception the elements of Apollo's two musical duels are present and are even intermingled. It seems the painter did not adhere to the Ovidian source. In this time only the moral of the two episodes was important: the victory of divine stringed instruments over the sensual wind instruments.