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Ceyx and Alcyone
The Trustees of the British Museum
William Woollett (1735-1785) after Wilson
Ceyx and Alcyone
443 x 553 mm
17 5/16 x 21 3/4 in.
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.
[?] SA 1769 (313)
In scratched letters to left 'R. Wilson pinxt.' and to right 'Woollett Acqua forti fecit'
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 (Ma1567)
P157 Ceyx and Alcyone, National Museum Wales, Cardiff (NMW A 65)
Probably the 'unfinished proof print of Ceyx and Alcyone, from Mr. Wilson' shown at the Society of Artists in 1769 (313). Published in its completed state 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, 1st state; Clayton 1997, pp. 190, 193, 195