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