“Prometheus Eternal”

I have not yet made well on my 2016 goal to write more blog posts, so in the spirit of trying to get back into the swing again, I bring you an atypical post in the form of a brief review of a comic book published in collaboration with a museum.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art recently exhibited “The Wrath of the Gods: Masterpieces by Rubens, Michelangelo, and Titian,” which focused on Peter Paul Rubens’ giant oil painting, Prometheus Bound, and some of the pieces by Michelangelo and Titian that may have inspired the work. In addition to publishing an accompanying book with the “typical” academic slant, the museum also teamed up with Locust Moon Press to create a comic book, “Prometheus Eternal.”

Prometheus Bound
Prometheus Bound. Artists: Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish (active Italy, Antwerp, and England), 1577 – 1640, and Frans Snyders, Flemish (active Antwerp), 1579 – 1657. The eagle was painted by Snyders. Date: Begun c. 1611-12, completed by 1618. Dimensions: 7 feet 11 1/2 inches × 6 feet 10 1/2 inches (242.6 × 209.6 cm). Accession Number: W1950-3-1. Purchased with the W. P. Wilstach Fund, 1950.

As explained in its introduction, the comic book features works inspired by PromethPrometheus Eternaleus Bound. Completed over seven or so years, Rubens’ painting shows Prometheus, the mythical character who created humans and then gifted them stolen fire, which resulted in a great repercussion from Zeus. Immortal, Prometheus was chained to a mountain and left to die at the hands (or rather, talons) of an eagle eating his liver, which would regenerate for eternity.

Most take the fire in the myth to be not only fire itself, but also as a symbol of creativity and imagination, a theme that is seen repeatedly in “Prometheus Eternal.” The comic book is something of a short anthology, with nine pieces by different writers/artists that number between one and five pages. The stories and art range from the more abstract representation of the myth (by David Mack), to the superhero casting of Prometheus (by Grant Morrison and Farel Daltymple), to the droll take on how Rubens came to paint Prometheus Bound (by Andrea Tsurumi, and my favorite of the bunch).

Though I did not have the opportunity to visit the exhibit, I nonetheless enjoyed the story behind the anthology and its resulting art. This collaboration, Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 12.13.17 PMthough fairly compact, is an interesting anthology that will be appreciated by creative spirits and art-lovers alike. Both the Philadelphia Museum and Locust Press have “Prometheus Eternal” available for purchase at a discounted price of $6.00, and I saw several listed quite cheaply on eBay as well.

“Prometheus Eternal” is a superb example of how museums can creatively reimagine their collection and bring information to their audience in a new way. Innovative approaches that allow people to interact with exhibitions and materials in a space outside the traditional museum model can only evoke new connections with the museum audience, and widen this pool. I find it exciting when museums use new technologies or display methods, and find “Prometheus Eternal” to be similarly noteworthy.

 

References

O’Neill, Josh, Andrew Carl and Chris Stevens, eds. “Prometheus Eternal.” Philadelphia: Locust Moon Press, 2015. Print.

Image of Prometheus Bound from the Philadephia Museum of Art collections.

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