José de Ribera: The Furias (1632)


(Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain)

A set of 4 painting made by the Spanish artist José de Ribera (1591-1652). The term 'furias' was applied in Spain to 4 men from the Greek mythology who defied the Gods and received eternal punishment in the afterlife (Tartarus) as a result. The name for these 4 men originates from a similar set made by Titian in the 16th century and from then on was used for the subject in general. Depicted are:

- top left: Sisyphus, king of Ephyra. Sisyphus was a cunning man who killed travelers and guests but also betrayed a secret of Zeus. As a result Zeus had him locked up in Tartarus but Sisyphus managed to escape several times. In the end Sisyphus was punished by rolling an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it come back to hit him, repeating this action for eternity

- top right: Tantalus. A son of Zeus and the nymph Plouto. Tantalus was initially welcomed by the Gods on mount Olympus but he stole the divine ambrosia and revealed the secrets of the gods. On earth Tantalus killed his own son and tried to trick the Gods into eating the boy. As a result Tantalus was punished by standing in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches, with the fruit ever eluding his grasp, and the water always receding before he could take a drink.


- bottom left: Ixion. King of the Lapiths who killed his father-in-law Deioneus during a feast in which Deioneus was a guest. Zeus took pity upon Ixion and invited him to mount Olympus to a banquet with the other Gods. Instead of being grateful, Ixion tried to seduce Hera, the wife of Zeus. Zeus punished Ixion by binding him to a winged fiery wheel that was always spinning (a satyr is turning the wheel on the painting).


- bottom right: Tityus. A son of Zeus and the mortal princess Elara. When Tityus tried to rape

Leto, one of Zeus’s lovers, he was punished in tartarus to be tortured by two vultures who fed on his liver, which grew back every night.


Paintings from 1632.

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