Pan and Syrinx, 1733
Jean François de Troy
oil on canvas
90.5 x 73 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 40407)
The tale of Pan's frustrated assault on the nymph Syrinx was recounted in several classical texts, most memorably in Ovid's "Metamorphoses" (Book 1, verses 698-712). Son of Mercury and the nymph Dryope, Pan was born half man, half goat, and his animal features were mocked by the nymphs who invariably spurned his lustful advances. He developed an overwhelming passion for the chaste Syrinx, one of Diana's attendants, and pursued her in the woods as she was returning from Mount Lycaeus. Unable to run any faster, upon reaching the edge of a stream she implored the river nymphs to rescue her: this they did by transforming her into marsh reeds at the very instant of Pan's embrace. Finding himself alone with a group of marsh reeds in his arms, the god was so charmed by the sound made by the air as it whistled through the reeds that he fashioned an instrument of seven pipes, to be used hereafter by his followers, the satyrs, in their revels.