This previously unpublished painting by Luca Giordano has been dated by Giuseppe Scavizzi, on the basis of photographs to circa 1655 to 1660. Another version of this mythical subject, now in the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig, shows the figures in reverse, Circe to the left and Picus to the right.1 Both early works belong to a series of paintings inspired by tales from Ovid's work Metamorphoses and date to the artist's most early, Riberesque period. According to the myth, Picus, the first king of Latium, was married to the nymph, Canens and was renowned for his skill in augury, intepreting the gods' will through the flight of birds. When pursued by Circe, Picus spurned the sorceress' advances and as punishment was transformed into a woodpecker. Here, as Circe reaches for the object of her desire with an admonitory expression, he turns in flight, feathers already beginning to spring from his arms and wings unfolding behind him. A woodpecker perches on a tree trunk beyond, a reminder of Picus' fate.
We are grateful to Giuseppe Scavizzi for supporting an attribution of this work to Luca Giordano on the basis of photgraphs.
1. O. Ferrari and G. Scavizzi, Luca Giordano, L'Opera Completa, Naples 1992, vol I and II, pp.266, 523, no. A104.a, reproduced fig. 180.
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