Transformations on Canvas

Written by Alexis Emerson, Kiera Hogan, Katie Hoskyns & Julia Valenzola

In Latin IV, students have spent this semester reading stories from Ovid’s Metamorphoses that deal with transformations in mythology that silence women. This topic was inspired by our schoolwide summer read, Women and Power: A Manifesto by renowned classicist Mary Beard.  As a culminating activity, students created one image on four canvases depicting the transformations of the women. 

Katie H. ‘23 stated, “Throughout the story of Pygmalion, we learn that he has a very low view of women. Pygmalion decided to sculpt the “perfect woman.” He ended up falling in love with his creation, which became a real woman. After reading this story, we had discussions on how men treat women when they don’t act the way they want.” 

Julia V. ‘23 wrote, “My corner of the painting is the top right, and it depicts Daphne, who was turned into a laurel tree while trying to escape Apollo. Hanging from one of the branches is also a subtle nod to Arachne, who was also transformed, this time into a spider by Athena. We wanted to include a small nod to this story while keeping it mostly in the background, because while Arachne was transformed and silenced, it was not done by/because of a man.”

In the bottom right canvas, “Io looks into the reflection of herself as a cow, which she was turned into by Jupiter in order to hide her from Juno,” Alexis E. ’24 described. “Callisto, who was turned into a bear by Juno as revenge for Jupiter’s infidelity, is represented by her hands having already been turned into bear paws.”  Later in the story, Callisto’s son almost shoots her in her bear form.  They were both turned into constellations, as shown in Katie’s painting, to prevent this from happening.

Keira H. ‘23 wrote, “Arethusa was enjoying a local river, minding her own business, when she was accosted by Alpheus, the god of the river where she was swimming. He fell in love at first sight, much to Arethusa’s displeasure, and began to chase her. She ran until she could run no more, and at last she was transformed into water, and she flowed into his river.

This project is meant to show the silencing of women throughout Roman myth, derived from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and as a means of reclaiming these stifled women.

We are looking forward to continuing our study of Ovid and other Roman poets in semester II!