European Myths and Legends

Myths and legends from many countries have always interested Beat Urfer. Here he explains his fascination with stories, which have been passed down through the generations:

"Mythology from around the world has always interested and intrigued me because it mirrors man's abiding emotions: love and compassion, desire and glory, hate and envy, loath and shame, joy or grief. It refers to the challenges that man still encounters - the search for truth, a deeper awareness of his own nature and that of the universe.

The stage and the actors may change from culture to culture but the essence prevails. Legends and tales fulfill the same role and are often part of a mythology. For instance one can find a "Romeo and Julia" or "Flood" story in just about any mythology but this fact is exactly what entices me to learn more about them and then convert them into paintings to be passed on to whoever is intrigued and enthralled by them.

Symbolism is an integral part of mythology and I love to also explore and use it in my art work, although not necessarily in a conspicuous way".

Circe the Seductress, naked in front of a red birdCirce - acrylic and cloisonne painting
Circe the Seductress, naked in front of a red bird - detailCirce - enamel detail

According to various Greek literary sources, Circe, known as the goddess of magic potions, a temptress who beguiled those who visited her on the island of Aeaea, sought to control those around her by turning them into animals, once they had drunk her potions.

Red anemone flower, Adonis and boar in detailAnemone
Detail, Adonis and Aphrodite with black boarAmenone, detail

Aphrodite, the Greek  Goddess of love and beauty, fell deeply in love with the extraordinary beautiful young God Adonis.

She feared that a tragic fate would befall him and tried to discourage his passion for the chase. Adonis persisted in hunting and one day a wild bore gored him in the thigh and killed him.

In memory of his death and of her grief, the lamenting Aphrodite sprinkled nectar on his blood and out of it rose the short lived flower Anemone, which is often seen in spring in Eastern Mediterranean countries.

Clytie worships the sun godHeliotrope
Heliotrope, enamel insert

Clytie, a water nymph, was in love with Helios, the sun God, who was indifferent to her love. So she pined away, sitting all day on the cold ground with her unbound tresses streaming over her shoulders.

For nine days she sat without food or water, her own tears and the chilly dew her only sustenance,  and gazed on the rising and setting sun.

At last her limbs rooted in the ground, her face became a flower which always turns towards Helios, whom she never ceased to worship.

Myths and legends - Shakespeare

Parts of Ophelia's tragic story told in enamel insertsOphelia inserts - pictures within a picture

Immersed in unrequited love and courtly intrigue, Shakespeare's character, Ophelia, famously drowns in a stream (see 'Gertrude', below left), apparently unaware of her suitors' undying love.

Hamlet's mother and Queen of Denmark, Gertrude, deeply concerned for her son  (who, in turn, worries that his mother has so quickly re-married his father's brother, Claudius) ends up drinking from a poisoned chalice, meant for Hamlet.

Can you see the various episodes of their drama in the enamel inserts?

Gertrude, Ophelia and Hamlet act out their tragedyGertrude, insert detail

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