Ovid's version of the story became the model for a painting by Peter Paul
Rubens, which he entitled "The Feast
of Tereus", in which the artist pays homage to both Ovid's vision of this
myth. This painting is remarkable in comparison
to the Greek artistic representations of this myth for its emphasis on Tereus,
without whom none of the subsequent horror
of this story would have unfolded. This scene is indeed the crux of the play -
it bridges the crimes and punishment of the
barbarian king. By choosing to depict this scene of Tereus' just desserts,
both Rubens, the artist, and Ovid, the poet
he honors, redirect our attention to the very cause of all the ill fortune in
this myth: Tereus' insatiable appetite for
power at the expense of an innocent victim.
His wife furnishes the ignorant
Tereus with this meal and,
lying about a sacred fatherly
ritual at which it is right
for a man to sit alone, she
removes the attendants and slaves.
Sitting high on his ancestral
throne, Tereus eats and
piles his own flesh into his
and so unaware is he that he says
"Bring Itys here!"
Procne is unable to disguise her
cruel joy and,
desiring to be the messenger of
his destruction, now says
655 "You have him, whom you
seek, inside." He looks around
and asks where he is; and as he
asks and calls,
Philomela, just as she was with
hair bespattered by the furious slaughter,
springs forth and shoves the
bloody head of Itys into his father's face.
Never was there a time when she
wished she could speak more,
660 so that she could show testament
to her joy with deserved words.
The Thracian overturns the table
with a great shout
and calls the snaky sisters forth
from the Stygian valley
and now he longs to expel from
his opened breast, if he could,
the horrible meal inside him, his
own flesh immersed.
665 And he cries and calls himself
the miserable tomb of his own son,
and now, with sword drawn, he
pursues the daughters of Pandion.
Ovid’s Met. Book 6, tr: Janice Siegel