Punishments in Hades

Margot A. LoudonNon classé

In the second year of my printmaking course, my print work took a figurative turn. It started with a small rubbing of a rock carving, made on a museum visit (from a replica carving of course). Using this as a basis for my first etchings and aquatints, I saw in the crude figures the god of the Greek realm of the dead, Hades and his deathly coterie.

Rock rubbing from forgotten museum

Then my approach changed. Now the image was not suggesting the theme. I sought out ancient Greek images of the underworld. I drew inspiration from depictions of imagined punishments in the kingdom of the dead, Hades the name of the kingdom as well as one of the names of its king.

The reception committee in Hades by the Styx. Drypoint, etching, and aquatint

A large print in vertical format shows souls falling into a chasm like underworld, in which devils torment evil doers. Greek vase paintings depict two scenes shown here. Ixion turns on his flaming wheel, punished because he had tried to rape the goddess Hera.  The daughters of Danaus who murdered their husbands on their wedding night are condemned for eternity to fill a leaking pitcher with water. In a third scene,  Tantalus, who also ran foul of Olympus, tries in vain to pull fruit off a tree. A little devil pulls it away from his grasping hand and if he tries to drink from the pool he stands in, the water will drain away. I have never come across the Tantalus scene on Greek vases, but ancient literature describes it and the other punishments. The earliest references to Tantalus date from Homer’s Odyssey, generally thought to have taken recognizable form by the 8th century bce.  Odysseus visits Hades for advice for his journey. Other descriptions of the punishments are found in Virgil’s Aeneid when his hero too ventures into the realms of the dead. Ovid’s Metamorphoses is also a rich source of description when he recounts the story of Orpheus. Orpheus and Eurydice – Margot A. Loudon

Hades. Drypoint

I enlivened the Greek underworld with images drawing on other cultures. The little devil catching the water from the leaking pitcher references African elaborately carved stools. The serpent winding its way through the fissures borrows on the river of fire images, that regularly snake their way through mediaeval European depictions of Hell and the Last Judgement.

The large print is a drypoint on perspex. I found it a fun subject.  I also did smaller prints of Tantalus and incorporated the Danae in other work. Frustrated during the Brexit talks on an exit deal, I even adapted the Sisyphus image to show Britannia.

Sisyphus . Aquatint and spit-bite
Brexit, a Sisyphean task. Drypoint
Tantalus. Drypoint