Gyula Benczúr, Narcissus, 1881

In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter known for his beauty. Ovid’s Metamorphoses tells the tale of Narcissus and Echo; Echo spots Narcissus in the woods one day and instantly falls in love with him. She follows him. Sensing that someone is watching him, Narcissus calls out “Who’s there?” and Echo mimics him with a “Who’s there?” Eventually she reveals herself and her love for Narcissus, only to be harshly rebuffed by him. Heartbroken, Echo took to the mountains to die and the only trace of her can be found there in echoes.

Nemesis, the goddess of retribution, takes revenge on Narcissus by luring him to a reflecting pool. He saw his own reflection in the water and fell deeply in love with it. After some time he realizes that his love will forever be unrequited. The fire of passion blazing within him causes him to melt away and be transformed into a flower, which is known today as a narcissus (daffodil). Benczúr gives us that moment of transformation.

Leave a Reply