In Greek mythology the Minotaur was a ferocious hybrid that had the body of a man but the head of a bull. He lived in the labyrinth constructed by the great architect Daedalus, under King Minos’ palace at Knossos on the island of Crete. His back story is outrageous, to say the least; King Minos refused to sacrifice a particular bull to Poseidon, which angered Poseidon. Poseidon made King Minos’ wife Pasiphaë fall in love with the bull, and she then had Daedalus construct a wooden bull for her to climb into so that she could mate with the bull. The Minotaur was the result of the illicit affair; an untamable beast that ate nothing but humans. Theseus eventually slayed the beast.
The artist writes “I wanted somehow to show his cunning and willingness to take on Theseus, his knowledge that Theseus was on his way to him and that it would be a battle of wits as well as brawn, the effect of being stuck with his nature and that things would inevitably take their course. I also added his next meal, trapped in the gloom behind him which had sort of surfaced in the study, or perhaps it’s the first appearance of Theseus’ arrival. You decide.”