Titian: The Flaying of Marsyas (1570-1576)


(National Museum, Kroměříž, Czech Republic)

a painting by the Italian artist Tiziano Vecelli (1488/90-1576), better known as 'Titian'. This painting shows a scene from Greek mythology. According to the story, the satyr Marsyas challenged the god Apollo to a musical contest, claiming that his music was superior over that of the god. Marsyas played the aulos or double flute and Apollo the lyre. Marsyas proved to be a worthy opponent and he won the first round. in the second round however, Apollo turned his lyre upside down and played the same tune - Marsyas was unable to do that on his aulos and he lost. As a result Marsyas was flayed alive by Apollo. 
Titian shows the fate of Marsyas who is hanging upside down on a tree but the artist had made some alterations to the story. In the tree a pan flute is hanging instead of the aulos, the female figure behind the kneeling Apollo is holding a lira da braccio instead of the lyre and king Midas of Phrygia (the seated man on the right with a crown) is here present as a judge instead of the muses. The presence of king Midas is probably a  mix up of another similar story of a musical contest between Pan and Apollo in which Midas was the judge. This painting was one of the last paintings which Titian made and it is perhaps unfinished. Painting from 1570-1576.

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