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Mythological painting and sculpturelocked

  • Willem F. Lash


Term used to describe art forms that draw on myth for their subject-matter. The term ‘myth’ refers to a story that attempts in more or less symbolic form to explain the mystery of the origins of the cosmos, the earth and humanity, the issue of life and death, and the causes and meanings of natural phenomena, all of which have bewildered humanity since ancient times. Humankind uses myth as an attempt to express its relation to nature. Closely related to myth is the saga or legend, which is based on historical events and which is by definition associated with a place and time, so lacking the universality of the myth. A legend or saga can, however, accumulate so much mythical material that the divide becomes blurred. This article concentrates on Greco-Roman mythology and its particular significance for contemporary and for later Western art and culture. There was a fundamental difference in attitude to mythology during these two periods: whereas in antiquity mythology was inextricably linked with religion, in post-antiquity it became primarily a source of inspiration for a variety of themes in art and literature. The diversity and universality of these themes, combined with the inexhaustible, metaphorical possibilities of the ancient myths, ensure the survival of mythology in Western art up to the present day. For a discussion of mythology and its relationship with religions and beliefs in other civilizations and cultures, ...

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