Cadmus Founding Thebes

Master of the Story of Cadmus
Anonymous, French, School of Fontainebleau, 16th century French
Designed by Francesco Primaticcio Italian

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 690

Taken from the Latin poem "Metamorphoses" by Ovid, first published in the year 8 ce, this image illustrates the mythical story of the Greek hero Cadmus, who established the city of Thebes. According to the mythological tale, the goddess Athena instructed Cadmus to sow the teeth of a dragon he had slain, and from these teeth sprung a group of men who helped Cadmus build his new city. In this composition, the scene is split by the rising masonry wall, creating a stark separation between Cadmus and the other workers. He holds a ruler and seems to be commanding his laborers, who are hewing, chopping, and assembling the building materials.

Cadmus Founding Thebes, Master of the Story of Cadmus (active ca. 1542–47), Etching

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