The Death of Procris
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Death of Procris, A Satyr mourning over a Nymph or simply A Mythological Subject are names given to an unsigned, undated panel painting in the National Gallery in London, United Kingdom, securely attributed to Piero di Cosimo (who never signed his works). Its date is uncertain, and its subject has been a matter of dispute. The name The Death of Procris (Italian: Morte di Procri) has been used since the 19th century, and is supposed to have been inspired by Ovid's tale of the death of Procris at the hands of her husband Cephalus, in Metamorphoses VII. The National Gallery has rejected this title since at least Cecil Gould's catalogue of 1951, since when it has preferred to describe the subject as "A Mythological Subject" or "A Satyr mourning over a Nymph".
Considering the alchemist background of Cosimo Rosselli (the painter's teacher and father-in-law), it has been suggested that the painting "can be explained in terms of the pictorial language of alchemy". According to this conceit, the dog (whose form is visually echoed by three other dogs in the background) represents none other than Hermes Trismegistos and a tree shown growing over Procris's breast symbolises the arbor philosophica. The red-and-gold veil of the victim is seen as symbolic of the "red-hot" philosopher's stone, and the entire composition allegedly represents the alchemist's longed-for victory over death.