Endymion contemplating the Moon on Mount Latmos. A.M. 2520.

WAG 7669


This is part of a group of drawings by British artist and book illustrator Edward Francis Burney, depicting scenes from Greek and Roman history and mythology. In Greek mythology, Endymion was a beautiful youth who spent most of his life asleep. In one version of his story, when Zeus offered him anything he wanted he chose everlasting sleep so he would remain forever youthful. In another, Zeus punished him with everlasting sleep for attempting to seduce his wife, Hera. Endymion was loved by Selene, the goddess of the Moon, who visited him every night when he lay sleeping in a cave on Mount Latmos. She bore him fifty daughters. In this composition, Selene is shown with her bow and arrows, identifying her with her Roman counterpart Diana, the hunter and goddess of the woodlands. Her hounds lie asleep at the feet of Endymion. 'Endymion', a long poem written by John Keats and first published in 1818, begins with the words: "A thing of beauty is a joy forever".