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PASSIONATE PAINTINGS – Pan and Syrinx

Pan and Syrinx

The parentage of Pan is not very clear. However, some accounts described him as the son of Hermes, the messenger of the gods, and a wood nymph, named Dryope. He was born with two horns coming out of his forehead, crooked nose and pointed ears. In his lower limb, he had the cloven hooves, a tail and the horizontal eyes of a goat. His mother was so frightened and distressed by his appearance that she left the child and ran away. However, Hermes wrapped him in the pelt of a hare and carried him off to Mount Olympus.

Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish 1577-1640) c 1617-1619
Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish 1577-1640) c 1617-1619
Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish 1577-1640) c 1620
Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish 1577-1640) c 1620
Nicolas Poussin (France 1594-1665) c 1637
Nicolas Poussin (France 1594-1665) c 1637

With time, he grew up and for years roamed the mountains of Arcadia, running and jumping with the ease of a goat. He was loved by the other gods, who gave him the name Pan, which meant “all”, the uncrowned god of all. However, after some time, Hermes gave his son the task of watching over the shepherds and the huntsmen of the area. He was thus regarded by all as the god of the shepherds and the hunters, and of the meadows and forests of the mountain wilds. Apart from his job, Pan liked to torment the travelers by creating unnecessary tension in their hearts to make them scary.He also had the habit of chasing the nymphs intending sex and made them run with pounding hearts. It is said that the word ”panic” was originated from his name, as his appearance and voice created panic among others.

Michel Dorigny (French, 1617-1663)
Michel Dorigny (French, 1617-1663)
Sebastiano Ricci (Italy 1659-1734)
Sebastiano Ricci (Italy 1659-1734)

One day while hunting, Pan stumbled upon a breathtakingly beautiful young nymph, Syrinx. Immediately, he was attracted by her sexuality and tried to pursue and court her. But Syrinx was a game some wood Nymph from Arcadia and was famous for her strong passion for hunting.  She was a carefree devotee of Artemis or Diana and already decided to abstain from any sexual pleasure. Moreover, she became frightened by the strange look of Pan. So she ran away to avoid the satyr.

Paolo di Matteis (Italy 1662-1728)
Paolo di Matteis (Italy 1662-1728)
Jean-François de Troy (French 1679-1752) c 1722-1724
Jean-François de Troy (French 1679-1752) c 1722-1724
Noel Nicolas Coypel (France 1690-1734)
Noel Nicolas Coypel (France 1690-1734)

But Pan did not like the idea to leave her alone. He pursued the nymph. The more he tried to catch her, the more elusive she became. He chased her over hills, down the valleys and finally reached the edge of a river, Ladon. Syrinx could realize that she would not be able to cross the river on her own. Desperately, she then started to appeal to her sisters, the river nymphs, to rescue her, until finally her prayers were heard and the river nymphs changed Syrinx into the reeds growing on the river bank. As Pan managed to reach Syrinx and spread his arms to embrace and fondle her, all he found in his arms was a plain tuft of reeds. Pan sighed out in grief, a sigh so deep that it sounded through the reeds, producing a sad melody. Charmed by the melody, Pan bunched up small pieces of reed and crafted a pan pipe, which he named “Syrinx” in memory of his lost love.  Afterward, Pan was seldom seen without it.

François Boucher (French 1703-1770) c 1743
François Boucher (French 1703-1770) c 1743

 

Dibyendu Banerjee
Dibyendu Banerjee

Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.

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