Painting “Prometheus Bound” by Paul Ruben

Prometheus bound is a Greek disaster that happened many centuries ago. Aeschylus directed a play about the disaster, giving us an understanding of the painting. Aeschylus spend most of his life in Athens and was therefore exposed to various revolutions that were happening during the time.

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Prometheus Bound (see appendix), as a painting, reflects the disaster that befell Prometheus who took fire without permission from gods and gave it to humans. Peter Paul Rubens depicted the happenings in 1610 as a piece of art (Backtoclassics). However, the whole event of Prometheus bound is mainly reflected in the play.

The disasters of Aeschylus reveal the revolutions that are taking place in Athens. In this play, the aides of Zeus Bratus and Bia carry Prometheus to a deserted place in a mountainous landscape where they tie him with a light chain and leave him lying on the edge of a cliff. Hephaestus explains his sympathy but states that he has no authority but to follow instructions.

Kratus insists that by sympathizing with him the reign of Zeus would be in jeopardy. Prometheus then invites nature to come and see how brutal other gods can be. He accepts the current turn of events but claims that he has the talent to predict in the near future. He declares that the present enmity between him and Zeus will not last long because Zeus will need his help at some point (Herington).

Prometheus predicts that in the near future Zeus will be healed and he will have children with Lo. He also adds that these children shall rule over the city of Argo forever. Prometheus sympathizes with Lo for her suffering and predicts that Zeus will be overthrown by his own son. Lo has cow horns on her head. Zeus is deeply in love with Lo but continues to oppress her.

She recalls how she was disowned by her father and how she was assassinated, but she was reborn as a cow and assigned to a gadfly. Hermes Zeus’s messenger walks in and commands Prometheus to tell him exactly who the mother of his son whom he refuses is. Hermes threatens him with a storm and also tells him that if he declines to follow his orders, he shall be sent to a deserted place where an eagle will feast on his liver (SparkNotes Editors).

Prometheus stands firm on his ground, but Chorus is pressuring him to give in. Hermes tries to send the Oceanids away, but they explain that they will stay by his side till the matter is solved. In this play Prometheus represents human development. By giving mankind hope, he has empowered him to continue in the fight, and the fire is used as a technology to accelerate development. The gods are threatened by human development, which will eliminate their supremacy and authority (Herington).

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Hephaestus is torn between destroying the friendship that exists between him and Prometheus or executes the instructions he has received from Zeus.

The flaws between Zeus and Prometheus symbolize authority. Prometheus assisted Zeus to fight his enemies, the Titans, by employing his guile, but after that Zeus uses his authority to oppress Prometheus. Authority requires one to use wisdom for him to remain in authority. As Prometheus puts it, Zeus does not have the necessary wisdom to stand on his own. Prometheus can not swallow his ego and obey Zeus and likewise Zeus can not stop offending Prometheus.

According to the play Prometheus was related to the gods. He stole fire from the gods and gave it to the people. This fire made the people to be powerful just like the gods, which in return made the chief god be jealous. He gave instructions to his aides to tie Prometheus and put him at the edge of a cliff.

An eagle used to come on a daily basis to eat Prometheus liver, but surprisingly the liver would grow again to replace the part that was consumed by the eagle. Later on, the eagle was killed by Hercules and therefore he was liberated. This is the interesting part that made Rubens to create a painting depicting the suffering of Prometheus.

Looking at the painting (attached in the appendix), it is clear that Prometheus is still powerful and struggles with the eagle. He does not look like a victim in this case and the painting use exaggeration to show open expression.

The elements of design in this art have been employed towards the accomplishment of the piece. Balance in this piece is achieved by shading more light on one side of the painting while darkening the opposite side. The background also is too dark compared to the front which is much lighter thereby balancing the aspect of light and darkness.

From the painting, it is clear that the eagle is tearing the victim’s liver and head without knowing. The fire at the background was first drafted by various artists. This fire has been used to create a blend within this image (Rollings and K.O.S Members).

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According to the play, Prometheus was isolated and put on a cliff at a place that was presumed to be the end of the world. The landscape was attached to the painting by Ruben. The impression of falling is clearly illustrated in this painting because, by the look of things, Prometheus seems to be laid out in a shape that indicates he has just landed from above.

In this painting, the nude man’s hands are tied together using a light chain. The man is fighting with the eagle that’s pricking his liver. According to the play, Prometheus is tied with big chains, but on this painting, the chains are too light hence he can still escape. Prometheus looks calm and it is clear that he is buying time to attack the eagle. The 18 inches on the left side of the painting were added by Rubens by merging the canvas.

The texture on the eagle’s feathers is different in that the part was done by Rubens is not similar to that of Synder. The line element is used to create this difference; the markings made by paint brush that creates the eagle’s feather is vivid in the painting, because different artists were involved. Initially, the painting’s left border was below Prometheus’s knee.

The skies in this painting have been perfectly blended by creating a balance on the intensity of colors to create a dull mood. If the artist had injected more blue on to the canvas, the skies would have been bright. Alternatively, if the more white color was injected the result would be clouds that resemble cotton wool that are on top of the blue skies.

The landscape does not entail everything that one would expect to see in a landscape such as trees and so forth. Apart from the tree that is next to Prometheus, there are no trees or bushes on the background.

Light is another aspect that is very crucial in all pieces regardless of their nature. Light is used to influence colors and shadows. It normally comes from a particular direction i.e. the top, left and right. In this piece, light is emerging from the left. This is true because when you first glance at this painting.

Prometheus’s skin tone is much emphasized and also the eagle’s rear is not visible. The eagle’s rear has been merged with the tree’s shadow. The tone in this painting is very cool in the background. When you look at the sky above the tone is cooler as you move towards the horizon, but it thickens towards the front. This has been achieved by applying small portions of blue and white color.

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The direction of this painting is oblique. It’s very relevant in creating the impression of movements of the images in this painting. This is enhanced by a positive shape that defines the area of the painting. Prometheus seems to occupy the majority of the available space. His soft tone body is used by the artist to capture the attention of the viewer.

Light brown color has been used to add texture on to the eagle’s wings and around its neck. The elements in this painting are very united. In a simple language, I mean the tree, landscape, the eagle and Prometheus are directly related in this scenario.

The hills on the landscape in this painting have been repeated severally with different intensity to create a pattern. Color and tone have been used to unify the tree, the rock, and the eagle. The painting is neutral because it’s not too bright or too dark. This is crucial because too much or lack of contrast would bring confusion into the painting. Therefore, the painting vividly depicts the concept of Prometheus Bound.

Works Cited

Backtoclassics. Prometheus Bound by Peter Paul Rubens, 1610-1611. 2009. Web.

Herington, John. Aeschylus. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986. Print.

Rollins, Tim and K.O.S Members. “What is this fire? Dialogue 2”. Philadelphia Museum of Art. 1997. Web.

SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Prometheus Bound”.SparkNotes.com.SparkNotes LLC. Web.

Appendix

Peter Paul Rubens: Prometheus Bound
Peter Paul Rubens: Prometheus Bound. Source: Backtoclassics. Prometheus Bound by Peter Paul Rubens, 1610-1611. 2009. Web.
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