The Wounded Centaur
(Panel - Fox-Strangways Gift 1834)
The subject matter of this painting seems to derive from the Roman writer Ovid (Fasti, Book V) in which he tells the story of the centaur Chiron, who fatally wounded himself while inspecting the arrows of Hercules tainted by the poison of the Hydra.
This painting offers a variant of that story in that the centaur is presumably examining the quiver of Cupid, seen reclining beneath the rocks behind, and Lippi may have intended to depict an allegory on the dangers of playing with love. The classical subject matter and anatomically correct torso of the centaur are consistent with the Renaissance ideals of late fifteenth-century Florence. Another important feature is the landscape in which the scene is set. It still plays a narrative role, depicting the ‘home’ of centaurs, but the capacity to become an independent genre in art is already implied. The geological formation of the cave and the reflections in the water reveal the growing interest of the artists of the time in nature.
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