Barrett Cobb’s watercolors have been exhibited in three one-woman shows and several group shows in New York City. She was twice a prize- winner at the Church of the Covenant’s Transparent Watercolor Show. She created projections for the Brooklyn Repertory Opera’s productions of both Orfeo ed Euridice and Ariadne auf Naxos.
Ms. Cobb studied painting at the Aegean Center for the Arts (Paros, Greece), the American Academy of Design, and, privately, with Alice Meyer Wallace, Wade Schuman, Jane Morris Pack, and Jack Stewart.
The Conception of Perseus
A Harpsichord Painting
On the occasion of our marriage, my husband, Harry Saltzman, and I were given a harpsichord by my father. We chose a modern instrument built in the United States by Robert Wilson. We selected it because of its rich sound, especially in the low register.
Unfortunately, our chosen instrument was painted royal blue, a color which did not go with the colors in our living room. So I decided to decorate it with an oil painting, a common practice in the Baroque period.
The subject matter for harpsicord paintings is usually nature, but as this instrument had a quite a robust sound, I chose to go with something more voluptuous. It seemed like a good idea to paint in a style which was admired when harpsichords reigned the keyboard world. As our one of our cats was named Perseus, I decided to model my painting on the famous painting by Titian (1488 – 1576), “Danae.”
This painting (these paintings really – there are at least five versions) depicts the Greek myth in which Zeus impregnates Danae through a shower of gold coins, resulting in the child, Perseus. From the side of the painting Cupid looks on, as is his custom. Where Titian painted his Cupid, I depicted our other cat, Eros, that being the Greek name for Cupid. I named my painting “The Conception of Perseus.” I based the six small paintings on the bottom of the instrument on other famous paintings by Titian. Wherever Cupid was present I painted Eros, the cat.
The Ancient Greeks were eminently sensible in many aspects of life. The hellenic belief system wasn’t divided into just good people and bad ones – the saved and the unsaved – as was the Christianity which prevailed after 380 CE. In the time when Zeus, Hera, Venus, and Dionysus reigned, the afterworld had a middle ground called the Mead of Asphodel. This meadow lies between Elysium, where the Blessed Spirits dance and the depths of Tartarus, where the wicked receive their punishment. It is in the Mead of Asphodel that the souls of those ordinary people who are neither good nor evil spend eternity. I find this a very reasonable viewpoint, and I celebrate it in my choice of asphodels as subject matter.
These unusual plants are not blooming and are in a dormant state in May and June, which is the only time I have been in Greece. Therefore this is the way I have painted them.