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Perseus & Andromeda

after an original painting by
Edward Burne-Jones  (1833–1898)

Perseus saves the Princess Andromeda in this p...

Image via Wikipedia

I am often attracted to works of figurative art in the peculiar sense that I want to experience being a part of the scene depicted. Many of my more complex compositions are recreations in 3D virtual space of scenes from pulp fiction book covers, advertising art, and as in this case, historical works of fine art. I find it amusingly ironic to recreate in three dimensions a scene that has only ever existed in two.

I’m not particularly attracted to this archetypal, iconic, but rather idiotic story of Perseus and Andromeda. As with many classical myths, the protagonists are driven in part by unrealistic passions in unlikely and unnecessarily complex situations created by gods (deus ex machina) with overinflated egos and questionable motives. And yet these stories are a fundamental part of our cultural fabric and the images they inspire are compelling in themselves.

In this story Perseus comes across the fair princess Andromeda, who is chained naked to a rock by her parents to be sacrificed to the sea serpent Cetus, sent by Poseidon in retribution for Queen Cassiopeia declaring herself more beautiful than the sea nymphs.  (A collision of vanities as in Snow White: The vain queen attempts to destroy the innocent girl who, through no fault of her own, is simply more beautiful.) The hero Perseus, having freshly banked street cred from the slaying of the Gorgon Medusa, is still hopped up on testosterone, primed for another conquest and an opportunity to score with the babes. He’s smitten with Andromeda at first sight, apparently because she is naked and beautiful and defenseless, all good qualities for a lasting relationship. Perseus determines to save the girl from her unjust fate in the archetypal “slay dragon, marry princess” episode. I think the symbolism of the hero depicted with a large angry serpent between his legs is rather obvious: He is not merely saving the girl from being ravished; he is slaying his rival in order to claim her for himself.

Edward Burne-Jones was a Pre-Raphaelite artist who worked closely with English artist and writer William Morris. Morris’s epic poem ‘The Earthly Paradise’ (1868) includes the story (‘The Doom of King Acrisius’) upon which this and several other illustrations by Burne-Jones were based.

Perseus and Andromeda, Diorama by FreeWee Ling

Process

First, let me acknowledge the shortcomings of this piece. If I were a master sculptor, the thing could have been much closer to the original. The greatest challenges were mapping out the serpent loops in 3D and adjusting scale and perspective.

For this diorama I used a clever inworld sculpt generator called CordMaker to create the serpent’s body. It lets you create a sculpted cord or rope by setting a series of node prims and then generating a sculpt map. It’s quite accurate, but is limited to 15 nodes. My serpent consists of 4 of these sculpts and the connections among them are a bit crude, but they are  inconspicuous.

CordMaker showing original nodes, resulting sculpt, final model.

What I realized after struggling with models is that the perspective in this picture is seriously out of whack. I used a camera control script to fix my camera position or I could never have done even this well (which I admit is not so great). Getting all the details really perfect would be a monumental chore and I’d already spent too much time on it. I may come back to it someday, perhaps when I’ve mastered meshes.

The rock faces are a stock texture. The serpent’s tongue is a sculpted pre-fab tree root. I created the serpent’s teeth and skin in Photoshop. The organic serpent’s mouth interior is a texture from Artistide Despres from an old Caerleon theme show. The sculpted chain is a stock pre-fab.

For the photos I used my alt to play the role of Perseus. The outfit is from Bare Rose. I made the helmet and sword myself. The body shape is original with particular attention to the face to make it resemble the painting. I also edited the skin to more closely resemble the slightly yellowish cast of the original.

Andromeda’s outfit was somewhat simpler… I didn’t try to alter my normal shape for this, but I used a paler than usual skin. I made several sky adjustments to light my pictures and didn’t keep a copy of the final Windlight setting. I created both poses in Qavimator. Andromeda’s pose was actually the more difficult. The angle of her head in relation to her body is actually a bit extreme. I took a little more freedom with her hair, both because I had this one in inventory and because I like how it flows down her back. I imagine the original arrangement was to maximize the exposed flesh .

I spent a lot of time on this piece and I could easily do a lot more tweaking to make it match the original better, but I think I’m done with it. On to the next. You are welcome to visit the diorama in my Laboratory and take your own pictures if you like.  There is a notecard giver there that also gives a copy of the sword.

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A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.