SCHALCKEN, Godfried
(b. 1643, Made, d. 1706, Den Haag)

Cephalus and Procris

1680s
Oil on canvas, 65 x 80 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The subject of this painting is taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses (Met. 7:795-866). In Greek mythology, Cephalus and Procris are a young couple, newly married, whose love was destined to end in tragedy. Aurora, the goddess of dawn fell in love with Cephalus. He rejected her and she retaliated by planting in him seeds of suspicion concerning his wife's faithfulness. A faun who was in love with Procris mischievously told her that he had overheard Cephalus talking to a secret lover while he was out hunting. To discover the truth Procris followed her husband into the forest and hid in the bushes. Cephalus, hearing the rustling of leaves, threw his spear and killed his wife.

The painting depicts the scene of the death of Procris. In his mythological and religious pictures, Schalcken favoured subjects that could be rendered as night scenes. In this genre he was influenced by his teacher, Gerrit Dou, and by Dou's leading disciple, Frans van Mieris the Elder.