Advanced Search
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Photography by Edward C. Robison III.

Young Marsyas (Marsyas Enchanting the Hares)

Artist: Elihu Vedder (1836 - 1923)
Date: 1878
37 1/4 x 53 3/4 in. (94.6 x 136.5 cm)
Framed: 43 1/4 in. × 59 in. × 2 3/4 in.
Medium: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2013.7
verso, on backing: Young Marsyas [old handwritten label]

Signed: l.l.: Elihu Vedder Rome 1878
Place Created:
Not on View
Accession Number: 2013.7
Provenanceto Francis W. Tracy [d. 1886], Buffalo, NY, 1879; by bequest to Agnes Ethel Tracy Roudebush (his wife) [1846-1903], Buffalo, NY, 1886; by bequest to Agnes Roudebush Henderson (her second husband's niece), New York, NY, 1903; to (Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, NY), April 20-22, 1943, lot 347; purchased by (Renaissance Art Gallery, New York, NY), 1943; to Rudolph Berger, New York, NY; by descent to Carole L. Berger (his daughter), New York, NY [d. 2011]; by descent to Private Collection, 2011; to (Sotheby’s, New York, NY), April 11, 2013, lot 63; purchased by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR 2013
Label TextAn American expatriate in Rome from the mid-1860s, Elihu Vedder often undertook mysterious or symbolic subject matter. The subject for Young Marsyas is based in Greek mythology. Marsyas was a satyr (half man, half goat) who challenged the god Apollo to a contest of musical skills. While practicing for the contest, Apollo made the trees and stones come to hear him practice his lyre (an ancient Greek instrument similar to a harp), so Vedder imagined Marsyas practicing his double flute for the hares. Tragically, Marsyas lost the contest and was flayed alive for his hubris, or extreme arrogance and defiance of a god.

This painting represents Vedder’s interest in imaginative themes grounded in the natural world. The luminous landscape where Marsyas practices is reminiscent of New England, although Vedder was living in Rome when he completed this painting.