1600 – 1700
The Baroque

Caravaggio's Narcissus at the Source

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Narcissus at the Source, oil on canvas, 1597-99 (Palazzo Barberini)

There stands a fountain in a darksom wood,
Nor stain'd with falling leaves nor rising mud;
Untroubled by the breath of winds it rests,
Unsully'd by the touch of men or beasts;
High bow'rs of shady trees above it grow,
And rising grass and chearful greens below.
Pleas'd with the form and coolness of the place,
And over-heated by the morning chace,
Narcissus on the grassie verdure lyes:
But whilst within the chrystal fount he tries
To quench his heat, he feels new heats arise.
For as his own bright image he survey'd,
He fell in love with the fantastick shade;
And o'er the fair resemblance hung unmov'd,
Nor knew, fond youth! it was himself he lov'd.
The well-turn'd neck and shoulders he descries,
The spacious forehead, and the sparkling eyes;
The hands that Bacchus might not scorn to show,
And hair that round Apollo's head might flow;
With all the purple youthfulness of face,
That gently blushes in the wat'ry glass.
By his own flames consum'd the lover lyes,
And gives himself the wound by which he dies.
To the cold water oft he joins his lips,
Oft catching at the beauteous shade he dips
His arms, as often from himself he slips.
Nor knows he who it is his arms pursue
With eager clasps, but loves he knows not who.

Ovid, Metamorphoses, c. 8 C.E.
translation from Latin by Sir Samuel Garth, John Dryden, et.al. 

Your Comments (1)

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H Niyazi wrote on Saturday, September 04, 2010

Thank you for the video and commentary, a wonderful exploration of the aesthetics and allegory of this work. The only thing that was perhaps missing was a mention of the ongoing query of the attirbution of this work. This work was done in a phase of Caravaggio's career that was less well documented, and barring an export license dated some fifty years hence, the attribution rests on the stylistic analysis alone. I'd like to think it is a Caravaggio too, it has that lovely ponderous quality that is so resonant in a lot of his work. Kind Regards H Niyazi

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Where and When

Narcissus at the Source
Rome, Italy

Check this out as well

This painting at the Palazzo Barberini (in Italian)

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