Ceyx and Alcyone

Ceyx and Alcyone
Ceyx and Alcyone
Ceyx and Alcyone
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
title=Credit line
William Woollett (1735-1785) after Wilson
Ceyx and Alcyone
Published 31 July 1769
Metric: 465 x 565 mm
Imperial: 18 5/16 x 22 1/4 in.
Accession Number
Wilson Online Reference
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 is a ruined castle.
Purchased 1928
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, Charlotte Str: Rathbone Place, R. Sayer & J. Bennett, Fleet Street, & J. Boydell, Cheapside, 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.
Related Prints
A further impression is at Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery (Ma1566)
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Related Paintings
P157 Ceyx and Alcyone, National Museum Wales, Cardiff (NMW A 65)
Critical commentary
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, 7th State; Clayton 1997, pp. 190, 193, 195
A good, bold impression.