Meleager and Atalanta. A.M. 2780.

WAG 7689


This is one of a group of drawings by British artist and book illustrator Edward Francis Burney, depicting scenes from Greek and Roman history and mythology. The Roman poet Ovid tells the story of Meleager and Atalanta in his 'Metamorphoses'. Having been forgotten by King Oeneus of Calydon in the annual harvest sacrifice, Diana (Greek: Artemis), goddess of the hunt, sends a wild boar to destroy his lands. A hunting party, including Meleager and Atalanta, is dispatched to kill the boar. Burney's drawing shows the moment that Meleager kills the animal. He subsequently presents its head to Atalanta, which angers his uncles who want the trophy for themselves. A fight ensues and Meleager kills them. Meleager's mother is enraged and curses her son, leading to his agonising death. A painting by Jacob Jordaens in the Museum of Fine Art in Antwerp shows the moment when the dispute over the boar's head begins.