The Death of Procris by Piero di Cosimo

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The Death of Procris by Piero di Cosimo

There are three titles available for the painting: The Death of Procris, A Satyr Mourning Over a Nymph and A mythological Subject.

The main title of the painting stays confused as there is no specific and accepted conclusion about the subject of the scene. That’s why the National Gallery of London, current house of the painting, has just simply decided to call it “A Mythological subject”.

The reason of the confusion is due the unclear base for the scene in history or in myths. The closest resemblance for the scene has been found by some historian is in the myth of Cephalus and Procris.

The story is about a married couple in which the husband ends up killing her own wife with a magical javelin which can’t miss its mark. Although, the story depicts the couple as humans, the current painting depicts a satyr mourning over a dead woman. There is a clear statement about Cephalus’s being a human in the myth when Eos, the goddess of dawn, stole him from Procris.

Another similarity is with the dog displayed in the painting. In the earlier part of the same story, the hound was gifted from Procris to Cephlus. It had magical power that no prey can flee from it. It is said that the dog in the picture is the same hound. But, the story tells that the hound was turned into a stone while chasing a magical fox which can’t be captured. It happened before Procris was killed by her husband. So, the magical hound can’t be there on the death of Procris.

These problematic facts simply defy the claim that the painting represents the tragic end of the Cephalus and Procris’ story. Another weak point is the lack of the magical javelin in the picture.

The renaissance period artist Piero di Cosimo, has mostly depicted mythological stories. And that leads the historians to believe that this painting should also have some connection to one or another myth. But, the differences are clear and couldn’t be officially proclaimed the paintings as the couple’s story.

Painting being uncertain about its subject’s origin is hanging in the National Gallery, London and is currently titled as A Mythological Subject.


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