Visualizing the climax of a myth.
Arachne, the daughter of a renowned dyer, was known for her skill at weaving. She boasted that Athena herself couldn’t best her. Though warned, Arachne refused to acknowledge that at least some of her knowledge came from the goddess. Athena went in disguise to warn Arachne not to be so conceited and to not offend the gods. Arachne scoffed and wished that she could engage in a contest with Athena to prove her skill. Athena revealed herself and accepted.
Athena wove a perfect scene of her victory over Poseidon which inspired the people of Athens to name their city for her. Arachne’s effort showed 21 depictions of the failings and transgressions of the gods. Even Athena agreed that Arachne’s work was immaculate. Whether for that or for the subject matter, Athena’s anger caused her to lash out at Arachne, destroying her loom and smiting her face. Refusing to bow to Athena (though some say it was due to realizing her folly), Arachne hanged herself. Out of pity, or perhaps spite, Athena transformed Arachne–the rope becoming spider silk.
In this painting, Athena is looking at the result of her handiwork.
Much of the painting is intentionally softly focused. Though the dominant image is that of Athena, I wanted the viewer’s gaze to always be drawn to Arachne. I also opted to not be overly beholden to the idea of realism for this piece in order to enhance the emotion–which, for Athena, can be interpreted as either lingering anger or pity/compassion. The dramatic lighting was chosen to further heighten the magnitude of the event.