Ovid. Metamorphose

Ovid. Metamorphose

La Metamorphose d'Ovide figurée

(Click on the call number to view the digital facsimile of the book.)

Gordon 1557 .O85

Combining the Renaissance fascination for classical mythology with the popular emblematic format, the Métamorphose d’Ovide figurée is considered one of the most beautiful illustrated books of sixteenth-century France. 148 woodcut illustrations of Ovidian myths are each accompanied by a huitain, an 8-line poem recounting the mythological tale in verse. Each is surrounded by an ornamental border of arabesque designs or grotesques and fantastical creatures.

Jean de Tournes, influential Lyonnais printer, displayed his finest ornate and arabesque borders and the elegant italic type of Robert Granjon in this volume. The “action figures” and detailed, graceful landscapes in the woodcut illustrations are attributed to Bernard Salomon, a master craftsman who deeply influenced book decoration and illustration in France. De Tournes and Salomon’s rich collection of representative mythological figures and elegant typographical elements made this book an iconographical manual of decoration for artists and craftsmen of the era.

Among the Ovidian myths pictured in this volume that recur often in the poetry of the French Renaissance, as well as in emblem books of the era, are the story of Theseus and Ariadne, the metamorphosis of Actaeon into a stag, the tale of Daedalus and Icarus flying too close to the sun, and that of Narcissus overcome by the beauty of his own reflection.