What’s Love Got to Do with It? Ovid, the “Love of the Gods,” and Cinquecento Carved Cassoni


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Section 2. Ovidian Materiality: Movable Metamorphoses




  • Bar Leshem Ben-Gurion University of the Negev


In his account of the contest between Pallas and Arachne, Ovid described the latter’s woven work as an elaborate representation of the destructive and uninhibited nature of the Olympian gods when their lust overwhelmed their common sense – a record of their seductions, rapes, and abductions of mortals (Ovid, Met. 6. 103–128). That passage, together with a longer retelling of each individual myth in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, created a fertile ground for early modern artists to portray erotic and/or violent scenes between men and women or, in some cases, between men and other, often younger, men. Most notable are the visual representations of myths about the “love of the gods,” for example, the rape of Europa and the seduction of Leda on Cinquecento carved cassoni, which place the myths and their import in the context of sixteenth-century domesticity. In this study, I explore these images with a view toward the didactic messages that they might have conveyed and suggest that through such myths, the bride was exhorted to act in a chaste manner and the groom was warned against succumbing to lust.

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Come citare

Leshem, B. (2024). What’s Love Got to Do with It? Ovid, the “Love of the Gods,” and Cinquecento Carved Cassoni. Il Capitale Culturale. Studies on the Value of Cultural Heritage, pp. 193–224. https://doi.org/10.13138/2039-2362/3278