From bodies various form’d, mutative shapes

My Muse would sing


This project’s goal is to create illustrations based on passages from The Metamorphoses by Publius Ovidius Naso (known in English as Ovid). This classic work of literature includes many vivid accounts of gods and people being transformed into animals or inanimate objects. The descriptions are detailed enough to supply excellent inspiration for artistic interpretation.


I encourage anyone and everyone to participate in this project. I originally dreamed it up as an exercise in my Photoshop class, but works could include drawings, paintings, sculpture, performance art, whatever.


For those who wish to participate: your images need not literally recreate the scene as described. Indeed, I encourage you to get creative, to use your own artistic vision to bring out the spirit of the metamorphosis you choose. Though you need to go where your vision takes you, I’d strongly prefer not to see a lot of ancient-Roman-looking stuff. So please try to avoid marble columns, togas and the like.


However, I want you to incorporate at least some of Ovid’s words into your picture. You don’t need to reproduce the entire passage. Indeed, I think you’ll find if you use more than a line or two that it’s going to clutter up your picture. Just make sure at least part of the text appears in your image.


And just so I’m giving Ovid his due, The Metamorphoses includes a lot of material that isn’t included here. Though much of it is visually rich, I left out everything that didn’t deal directly with a metamorphosis in the most literal sense. I also left out a few transformations (such as Teiresias turning from a man to a woman and back again) the descriptions of which weren’t extensive enough to provide much direct artistic inspiration.


The passages are from J.J. Howard’s 1807 translation, available from Project Gutenberg. When assembling this project, I read David Raeburn’s new verse translation. The former works best for what we’re working on, thanks in no small part to its age and consequent lack of copyright. But if you want to read the whole thing from beginning to end, I highly recommend the latter.