Philemon & Baucis
acrylic and gold leaf on wood
42" x 31"
back
© Ron Orpitelli 2006
Begun following the passing of my mother, the theme of this painting derives
from Greek mythology:

"... the story of Philemon and Baucis, whom Zeus and Hermes visited in Phrygia.
These gods descended to earth disguised as mortals, and when they were
wandering in the region where Philemon and Baucis lived, they sought a place to
rest, but no home would receive them until they knocked at the door of this aged
couple's humble home. In that cottage, thatched with straw and reeds from a
neighbouring marsh, they had wedded in their youth and grown old together.

Their poverty was not a hindrance for receiving the visitors, and after setting out a
place for them to rest and lighting the fire, they prepared a meal for the unknown
guests: olives, called Athena's berries, cornel-cherries pickled in the lees of wine,
endives and radishes, cream cheese, and eggs. The food was served in
earthen-dishes, and the wine in an earthen mixing-bowl, for that was the noblest
material their wealth could afford. And for the second course they served honey,
nuts, figs, dates, plums, grapes, and apples.

So while the visitors noticed that their hosts were serving them abounding
goodwill, the hosts noticed that each time the mixing-bowl with wine was drained
it filled of itself, which should not be so surprising, for goodwill is often the prelude
of things that are sometimes considered as miracles when goodwill has not yet
appeared.

Afraid of what they were witnessing, Philemon and Baucis, fearing the power of
their visitors, decided to slaughter their only goose, but old as they were they
could not catch it, and finally the bird fled for shelter to the gods themselves, who
revealing their divine identity, announced to the old hosts that the wicked
neighbourhood in which they lived would be punished, and that only them would
be exempted.

With these words the gods took the old couple to a tall mountain in the vicinity,
and when Philemon and Baucis looked back from the top they saw the whole
country-side flooded with water, but in the middle of this new large lake their own
house still remained.

Thinking of the tragedy that had affected their neighbours they were in tears, for
there are those who pity even the most wicked, but while they wept, the gods
changed the small cottage into a temple, turning the wooden supports into
marble columns, and the straw into gold.

Having done all these wonders, the gods told them to ask any boon they wished.
They asked to be the priests of the temple and, since they had spent their lives in
constant company, they prayed to die at the same time, and Philemon asked:

   "... that I may never see my wife's tomb, nor be buried by her."
                            [Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.710]

The gods granted their request, for after spending still many years guarding the
temple, one day they put forth leaves, and no sooner they had said farewell to
each other, they were turned into trees standing close together and growing from
one double trunk..."


by Carlos Parada
Author of Genealogical Guide to Greek Mythology
© Ron Orpitelli 2006
© Ron Orpitelli 2006
UPDATE
Philemon & Baucis
My 2006 painting has been included in
The West on the Move -
Ancient Bridges to Europe
Published in Germany, this 2015 book is
a compilation of essays and lectures by
Professor Friedrich Maier
about origins of western civilization
in the ancient world (chapter heading:
A "Goldsmith of Words" combines Europe -
Ovid's Metamorphoses and their
incomparable potency"
).  
For more information,
OVID VERLAG