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Ceyx and Alcyone
Birmingham Museums Trust
William Woollett (1735-1785) after Wilson
Ceyx and Alcyone
Published 31 July 1769
Line engraving and etching
458 x 563 mm
18 x 22 1/8 in.
1939P664
E20B
A stormy sea, from which Ceyx's corpse is being brought ashore by two nymphs. Alcyone stands on the shore, distraught with grief, surrounded by four nymphs. Waves crash against a cliff, on the top of which are a ruined tower and other buildings.
Acquired 1939
Lettered below image:
[1] Upper left: 'R. Wilson pinxt. Londini'
[2] Lower left: 'Cernit: erat conjux. Ille est exclamat: et una | Ora, comas, vestem lacerat: tendensque trementes | Ad Ceyca manus. Sic, o carissime conjux, | Sic, ad me, miserande, redis? ait. ____ Ovid. Met. XL. 725.'
[3] Lower centre: 'CEYX and ALCYONE. | From an Original Picture in the Possession of Ryland & Bryer. | Publish'd July 31st. 1769, as the Act directs, by Wm.Woollett, in Green Street, Leicester Fields, & Ryland & Bryer, at the King's Arms, in Cornhill, LONDON.'
[4] Lower right: 'She knows too much in knowing whom she sees; | Her Husband's Corps; at this 'she loudly shrieks, | 'Tis he, 'tis he, she cries, and tears her cheeks, | Her Hair, and Vest. ______ | And it is thus. O dearer than my Life, | Thus, thus returnst thou to thy longing Wife! Dryden.'
The source is Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book XI, 710-42. Ceyx was on his way to consult the oracle at Claros when he was shipwrecked. His doting wife, Alcyone, dreamed of the disaster and the next morning she discovered his drowned body being washed ashore. She was so distraught that the gods took pity on the couple and transformed them into birds.
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A further impression is at Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery (Ma1566)
P157 Ceyx and Alcyone, National Museum Wales, Cardiff (NMW A 65)
Published by Ryland & Bryer and William Woollett. The sublime setting, here reminiscent of Vernet's stormy shipwrecks, was probably intended to repeat the success of Woollett's Niobe, (E11, National Museum Wales and other impressions) published by John Boydell in 1761. Solkin suggested that the subject was chosen for the commercial appeal of combined themes of love, fidelity, pathos and tragedy.
Fagan 1885, p. 30, cat. LXV, 6th State
Laid down on canvas and in bad condition