This drawing, by the French artist Claude Lorrain (c. 1600-1682), was inspired by an episode from the Aeneid, an epic poem by the Roman poet, Virgil (c. 70-19 BCE). The Aeneid follows the journey of the Trojan hero, Aeneas, as he travels west after the Trojan War. In the passage that inspired the drawing above, Aeneas and his followers sailed to the Greek island of Delos. Aeneas’ arrival at the island was described by Virgil:
“Mid-sea there lies the sacred island of Delos,
loved by the Nereids’ mother, Aegean Neptune too.
Apollo the Archer, finding his birthplace drifting
shore to shore, like a proper son had chained it fast
to Myconos’ steep coast and Gyaros, made it stable,
a home for men that scorns the winds’ assaults.
Here I sail, and here a haven, still, serene,
receives our weary bodies safe and sound…
Landing, we just begin to admire Apollo’s city
when King Anius, king of men and priest of the god,
his brow wreathed with the bands and holy laurel leaves,
comes to meet us, spotting a long-lost friend, Anchises.
Clasping our host’s hands, we file toward his palace.”
(Virgil, Aeneid, Book 3, approximately lines 90-100)
It is this scene of Aeneas and his crew at the peaceful and picturesque island of Delos that Claude Lorrain attempts to channel in his drawing. Landscape and architecture dominate the artwork, with the human figures relegated to the lower left corner of the image. After planning out the art in drawings such as this one, Claude Lorrain would later go on to create his vision in a painting.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- The Aeneid by Virgil, translated by Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006.