The Departure of Ceyx

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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This panel shows the first part of the story of Alcyone and her husband Ceyx from the Metamorphoses, a poem by the Roman writer Ovid. It is continued in another panel, made as its pair (now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art).

A boat waits to take Ceyx to the large wooden ship in the distance, upon which he will sail to the oracle at Claros. An oracle was a divinely inspired priest or priestess who would offer advice and answer questions. Alcyone, who had a premonition of a violent storm at sea, is on her knees begging Ceyx not to go.

Alcyone’s prediction came true. The Philadelphia panel shows Ceyx’s drowned body and Alcyone, appalled at the sight of it, launching herself into the sea. Their tragic end provoked a god to spare them both, transforming them into birds which appear to the left of the Philadelphia panel.

The National Gallery, London



The Departure of Ceyx


probably about 1502-7


Oil on spruce


H 74.9 x W 88.9 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Layard Bequest, 1916

Work type



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The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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