Thursday, May 28, 2009

athena and athene

I wrote an article for on Modern Art & Mythology a few weeks ago and came across a pretty fascinating 1898 painting of the goddess Athena by Gustav Klimt (first image). Athena, the Greek counterpart of Minerva, presided over matters of war, intelligence and the arts, and in Klimt's case Athena had been named as the patron goddess of Klimt's Vienna Secession artistic movement. His Athena is all pale and glittering, with a beautiful golden sheen to her shield and helmet.

The other portrait here is from the William Blake Tarot, wherein Blake's artwork was adapted for a tarot deck and Athene -- not Athena -- represents the Woman of Painting card. (The William Blake Tarot has creative or mentally-inclined Suit cards, like Poetry for Wands, Music for Cups, Science for Swords and Painting for Pentacles.) Blake's Athene is bright and colorful and seems to be less at war and more focused on the arts in this particular scene. Draped in red, she's described in the deck as representing "elegance combined with usefulness," and she awards "her sacred olive wreaths to several artists for their industry, competence, and trustworthiness."

Blake's Athene always reminds me a little of Isabella Rossellini, who interestingly enough played Athena in Andrei Konchalovsky's version of The Odyssey. Konchalovsky's Odyssey was on TV back in the late 1990s and is worth investigating as a DVD rental -- if it's even on DVD -- with Isabella R. of course, and Armand Assante enduring all the wild travels and trials of Odysseus.