Μουσεῖον | Mouseion
oil on canvas (linen)
120 × 100 cm
The interior of the long-gone Doric Apollo temple at Delphi is depicted here, with some imagination; the atmosphere and even the building itself are partly invented. The colourful muses painted on the wall represent inspiration in science and the arts; basically the ancient foundation of civilization to this day.
The oracle of Delphi was a woman, who, in her role of priestess, was called Pythia. While the oracle operated for almost 1000 years (600 BC to 392 AD) in a temple like this one, it is in fact thought to be much older. The demanding nature of their role may have led these women to seek refuge in Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo, a powerful and woman-friendly being among the divine company.
- The great Maria Callas performs an aria called Casta Diva, from her signature role, Bellini’s druid priestess Norma, with the Orchestre de l’Opera National de Paris and Georges Sebastian. Recorded live at the Palais Garnier on the 19th of December 1958.
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This painting, together with three other paintings, forms a tetralogy called Μαντείο των Δελφών (Manteion ton Delphon, “Oracle of Delphi”). The other paintings are: Τέμενος (Témenos) from 2012, Oracle from 2019 and ὕβρις (Hybris) from 2020.
The scene shows a museum-like environment, hence the title Mouseion “temple of the muses”. The nine Muses (Μοῦσαι) were companions of Apollo and personified the ‘nine fine arts’, or sciences and arts. The muses were also called Parnassides after their residence on the Parnassus at the Kastalia well at Delphi.
A woman of ordinary descent, the oracle of Delphi (Pythia) was chosen for her mental and physical qualities; her position was demanding, and probably not without health risks. I wonder what all this meant for this lady and her loved ones, especially the fact that she must have been confronted with the big dilemmas of the most powerful people of her time — essentially the same political dilemmas of our own time. I can’t help but think that morality was a complex issue for her after having performed her oracular duties, particularly when war and peace were at stake.
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