- Museum number
Prometheus stealing Fire from the chariot of the Sun, formerly in an album; oval
- Production date
Height: 155 millimetres
Width: 256 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Lit.: N. Turner, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Roman Baroque Drawings', London, 1999, I, no. 278
The subject, previously described as Phaethon setting off in his father's chariot (Harris, 1971), was correctly identified by Dr Jennifer Montagu as that of Prometheus stealing fire from the chariot of the Sun in order to give it to mankind. It was for this act that Zeus punished Prometheus by having him chained to a rock where each day an eagle came to feed on his liver, a sentence from which he was later released by Hercules. Although aware that no corresponding scene of this subject was mentioned in Bellori's very full account of Sacchi's pictorial decoration of Cardinal del Monte's garden 'casino' (for which see 1963,1109.26), Harris, nevertheless, connected the drawing with this same project, observing "since the sun god Apollo is concerned, such a scene might have been considered for a room whose theme, according to Bellori, was "Le Stagioni che prendono vita dal sole"."
More recently, John Gash has suggested orally (13 September 1988) that the composition may have been intended as a design for the decoration of Cardinal del Monte's laboratory in the same villa, the oval format perhaps suggesting a ceiling painting. Certainly the theme would have been suitable. Prometheus rescued man from his ignorance. The spark of divine fire that he stole caused man to be distinguished from lesser creatures and was the origin of man's knowledge of the arts and sciences. Del Monte was the younger brother of Guidobaldo Bourbon del Monte (1545-1607), the scientist, mathematician and patron of Galileo Galilei. He practised alchemy, and was himself keenly interested in music, the arts and sciences.
Literature: Harris, 1965, pp. 609-10; Harris, 1971, p. 387, under no. 1, fig. 36; Harris, 1977(a), p. 53, n. 3, under no. 11; Tokyo and Nagoya, 1996, no. 78.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1996 Feb-Apr, Tokyo, Nat Mus Western Art, Italian Drawings/BM, no.78
1996 Apr-May, Nagoya, Aichi Pref Mus of Art, Italian Drawings/BM, no.78
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- From an album of chiefly 17th-century Italian drawings, with a 19th-century binding inscribed: "CHALKS"; on the back fly-leaf: "Broke Hall". The entire album was purchased using £240 donated to the BM by Sotheby's. Some drawings were mounted at the time of acquisition by the Museum (1963,1109.29-31, 1963,1109.26-27, 1963,1109.24-25); the remainder was registered in 1988 (see 1988,1105.91 and sub-numbers).
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number