Levitation in Paintings

compiled by Peter Y. Chou

Piero di Cosimo (1462-1521)
The Liberation of Andromeda (1515)
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy
Painted in oil on wood, 2 ft. 3 in. x 3 ft. 11.5 in. (0.69 m x1.20 m)

The sequence of this narrative picture should be followed from the right hand side top corner through the centre to the left, and back to the right hand side bottom corner. First, Perseus is seen flying through the air towards the monster, the huge bulk of which almost fills the bay. In the centre the hero has landed on the back of the dragon and has raised his sword for the death-dealing blow. On the left Andromeda, tied to a tree-trunk, is vainly struggling to loosen her bonds. In the foreground on the left a group of men and women are turning away and screening their eyes from the dreaded sight. On the right, Perseus, welcomed by a joyous crowd and followed by musicians, carries off his rescued bride. (Plate XVIII, facing page 108)

Piero di Cosimo's romanticism and quaintness of invention, as well as his later technical manner of blurring the outlines and avoiding clearly contrasted passages of local colour, may be studied in the three panels illustrating the story of Perseus and Andromeda, which were painted for the decoration of a room in the house of Francesco del Pugliese, and are now placed in the First Corridor [of the Uffizi Gallery]. In the first of the series, The Liberation of Andromeda, Andromeda is seen on the left vainly struggling to loosen the knot which ties her to a tree-trunk, a victim to the truly terrible monster that moves towards her through the water in the centre of the composition. A group of men and women turn in shuddering horror from her impending doom. But Perseus who, on the right, is seen with winged feet flying through the air, has in the centre already alighted on the back of the tusked, fungus-eared monster, and has raised his sword with swinging movement to deliver the deadly blow. On the right, Perseus, surrounded by a joyous crowd and accompanied by musicians, carries off his rescued and happy bride. Here, as in the succeeding panels, Piero still follows the primitive device of relating the consecutive stages of his story within the frame of a single picture. (pp. 108-109)

Detail of Perseus flying in air

P. G. Konody, The Uffizi Gallery
London: T. C. & E. C. Jack, Ltd., 1912 [N2570.K6]

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