Drawing on the design of Apollo and the Muses by Luca Penni, Giorgio Ghisi created this engraving that depicts the Greco-Roman sun god, Apollo, sitting upon Mount Parnassus, a mountain sacred to the Dorians in Ancient times. Beneath him is a chorus of nine muses who play musical instruments and dance as Apollo plays the six stringed lira da braccio – an instrument frequently cited during the sixteenth century and often played alongside epic verses.
A white Pegasus leaps out from behind Apollo. According to the Greek myth, Pegasus was the son of Poseidon and could create streams of water with his hooves. The Castalian Spring runs down the centre of the composition as this was the home of the muses and a source of creative inspiration, knowledge and beauty for the poets who were their servants.
Homer and the Roman poet, Virgil, converse in the background of the image. Like Apollo, they are crowned in laurel wreaths which Apollo wore in honour of his love for Daphne, who had transformed into a laurel tree. The symbol of the wreath now signifies people of learning whose creative energies were inspired by the muses.
The symmetry of the overall composition alongside Apollo’s relaxed pose and contemplative expression conveys a sense of harmony. This speaks of the beauty and perfection of artistic expression that can only be obtained by Gods.