ROME – Visual interpretations of the Roman version of the tragic myth of Echo and Narcissus and its symbolism decorated the walls of Rome’s Palazzo Barberini.
Drawing from the story of a mountain nymph cursed to only speak words she has just heard and a man so beautiful he falls in love with his own reflection and lies staring at himself until he fades away and is transformed into a flower, “Echo and Narcissus” explores self-portraiture, eroticism and temporality, said the museum.
The works are spread across centuries of art history, with paintings like “Narcissus” by Baroque master Caravaggio, a delicate portrait of the hunter gazing at his reflection, shown alongside Monica Bonvicini’s “Bent and Fused,” a sculpture made out of fluorescent tube lights netted together to form a flat plane.
The story of Echo and Narcissus is found in Book III of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” a Latin masterpiece that narrates the world’s history through more than 250 myths.
The poet told of how Echo, a chatty nymph cursed by Juno to only be able to utter the last thing she heard, becomes enamored with Narcissus, a proud son of a river god who scorned anyone who loved him.
Echo waits in vain for him to speak any tender words so she can repeat them and finally express her feelings for him, but Narcissus has eyes only for himself and eventually she withers away into nothing but a voice.
When the hunter stoops down to drink from a river, he falls madly in love with his reflection in the water and lies there in love with himself until he disappears and his body is transformed into a Narcissus flower, a dainty pale bloom still found beside waters to this day.