From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Niobe (Νιόβη) was the daughter of the mythical ruler Tantalus, called the "Phrygian" and sometimes even as "King of Phrygia" , although Tantalus ruled in Sipylus, a city located in the western extremity of Anatolia, homonymous with the mountain on which it was founded (Mount Sipylus) and of which few traces remain, and not in the traditional heartland of Phrygia situated more inland and centered around Gordion. An Anatolian princess, Niobe married Amphion of Thebes and Greek mythology acted as a vehicle for her historical record mixed with legends. Niobe was the sister of Pelops, who gave his name to the Peloponnese.


Niobe in literature and fine arts


The story of Niobe, and especially her sorrows, is an ancient one. The context in which she is mentioned by Achilles to Priam in Homer's Iliad is as a stock type for mourning. Priam is not unlike Niobe in the sense that he was also grieving for his son Hector, who was killed and not buried for several days.

Niobe is also mentioned in Sophocles's Antigone where, as Antigone is marched toward her death, she compares her own loneliness to that of Niobe. Sophocles is said to have also contributed a play titled Niobe that is lost.

The Niobe of Aeschylus, set in Thebes, survives in fragmentary quotes that were supplemented by a papyrus sheet containing twenty-one lines of text. From the fragments it appears that for the first part of the tragedy the grieving Niobe sits veiled and silent.

Furthermore, the conflict between Niobe and Leto is mentioned in one of Sappho's poetic fragments ("Before they were mothers, Leto and Niobe had been the most devoted of friends.").

Niobe's iconic tears were also mentioned in Hamlet's soliloquy (Act 1, Scene 2), in which he contrasts his mother's grief over the dead King, Hamlet's father - "like Niobe, all tears" - to her unseemly hasty marriage to Claudius.

Among works of modern literature which have Niobe as a central theme, Kate Daniels' "Niobe Poems" can be cited.


The subject of Niobe and the destruction of the Niobids was part of the repertory of Attic vase-painters and inspired sculpture groups and wall frescoes as well as relief carvings on Roman sarcophagi.

Notably, the subject of the Attic calyx-krater from Orvieto conserved in the Musée du Louvre has provided the name for the so-called "Niobid Painter".

The lifesize group of marble Niobids (including Niobe sheltering one of her daughters) found in Rome in 1583 along with the Wrestlers were taken to the Uffizi in Florence in 1775, where, in a gallery devoted to them, they remain some of the most prominent surviving Hellenistic sculptures. New ones come into daylight from time to time, like one headless statue found in early 2005 among the ruins of a villa in the Villa dei Quintili just outside Rome.

In painting, Niobe was painted by post-Renaissance artists from varied traditions (see below). An early appearance, "The Death of Niobe's Children" by Abraham Bloemaert, was painted in 1591 towards the start of the Dutch Golden Age. Three notable works, all dating from the 1770s, "Apollo and Diana Attacking Niobe and her Children" by Anicet-Charles-Gabriel Lemonnier, "The Children of Niobe Killed by Apollo and Diana" by Pierre-Charles Jombert and "Diana and Apollo Piercing Niobe’s Children with their Arrows" by Jacques-Louis David belong to the tradition of French Baroque and Classicism.

A notable work of the 20th century, titled, simply, "Niobe" was painted by Károly Patkó who also produced at the same time a sketch.

In music Benjamin Britten based one of his Six Metamorphoses after Ovid on Niobe. Canadian electronic/pop musician Dan Snaith, aka Caribou (musician), entitled the last track on his 2007 Polaris Prize winning Andorra (album) as "Niobe".

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Niobe" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools