Hendrick Heerschop: Erichthonius found by the daughters of Cecrops (1650 - 1672)


(Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

A painting by the Dutch artist Hendrik Heerschop (1626 – 1690). This painting shows an episode from Greek mythology. The Greek goddess Athena requested new weapons from Hephaestus, the Greek god of God of fire, metalworking, blacksmiths etc. Hephaestus however wanted to seduce Athena but she refused and fought him off. Semen of Hephaestus landed on the thigh of Athena who wiped it away with a scrap of wool and flung it to the earth. When the semen landed on the earth, Erichthonius was born. Athena wanted to raise the child in secret and placed him in a small box. she gave the box to the three daughters (Herse, Aglaurus and Pandrosus) of king Cecrops of Athens, and warned them never to look inside. Overcome with curiosity they ignored the warning of Athena and looked inside. Inside the box was the infant Erichthonius but also a snake (according to other sources Erichthonius was half man and half snake). The daughters went insane and threw themselves off the Acropolis. Erichthonius would later became a king of Athens and would rule for 50 years. Supposedly he taught the Athenians to yoke horses and use them to pull chariots, to smelt silver, and to till the earth with a plough. When Erichthonius died the god Zeus raised him up to the heavens to become the constellation of the Charioteer (Auriga). Painting from 1650-1672.

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