Classical Mythology

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Artworks that depict Greek and Roman mythology. Greek mythology, concerned largely with the lives of gods and heroic humans, has origins in oral tradition but was recorded by poets such as Homer, Sophocles, and Euripides. Roman mythology, which borrowed heavily from Greek predecessors, often dealt with myths of origin, social institutions, and human destiny; key poets included Virgil and Ovid and central stories include those of the She-Wolf of the Capitoline and the Rape of the Sabine Women. Mythological narratives were represented widely in Greek and Roman art, particularly in pottery, sculpture, and mosaics. The allegorical power of the widely known stories remained long after the decline of associated pagan religions, and overlaps between pagan and Christian imagery are visible in the tombs of the earliest Christians. While classical imagery was largely dormant in the Medieval period, it returned in full force in iconic Renaissance paintings and sculptures by the likes of Botticelli, Titian, and Raphael in Italy and Albrecht Dürer in Germany, all of whom sought to reconcile Christian piety with Classical thought. Subsequent painters who dealt regularly with classical themes included Peter Paul Rubens and Nicolas Poussin, and in 17th- and 18th-century academic painting, the use of classical stories was an esteemed technique. In the last two centuries, artists have treated classical myths with a great deal of flexibility, examples including Gustave Moreau's Symbolist depictions, Picasso's works concerning the Spanish Civil War, and Romare Bearden's retelling of classical stories with black subjects.

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