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Erato, the Muse of love poetry, wears a low-cut gown. On the table beside her is a heart-shaped box of Valentine’s Day chocolates, pomegranates—an ancient symbol of love—and a single red rose. The muse wears the same sexy black ribbon around her neck and pink blossom in her hair that Manet used in painting his Olympia.

Erato

Not your antiquarian’s muses

Erato, the Muse of love poetry, wears a low-cut gown. On the table beside her is a heart-shaped box of Valentine’s Day chocolates, pomegranates—an ancient symbol of love—and a single red rose. The Muse wears the same sexy black ribbon around her neck and pink blossom in her hair that Manet used in painting his Olympia.

Euterpe, the Muse of lyric poetry and music, plays a flute, the instrument she invented. She stands in front of four male musicians. Terpsichore, the Muse of dance, laces a pair of ballet shoes. Behind her hang shoes for tango, tap and other kinds of dance.

In ancient Greece the nine Muses were known to inspire mere mortals to accomplish great things. They were other-worldly.

Not so the Muses depicted in separate paintings hanging in the Ekstrom Library Bingham Poetry Room. 

At a recent event there, artist Ann Stewart Anderson talked about the paintings. The library commissioned her to paint them as a finishing touch to the room’s 2006-07 renovation and installed them last summer. They had their public introduction in January.

The Muses, Anderson explained, are not the first mythological women she has painted, but instead are a logical next step in a subject line that stretches back 15 years.

"When I paint a woman from mythology," Anderson said, "I do a lot of research and then tweak it. I take all kinds of artistic license."

Anderson shared several "little secrets" of each painting. The proliferation of dance shoes in the Terpsichore painting is there because "I love to paint shoes," she said.

Urania, the Muse of astronomy and astrology, points to the Pegasus constellation in the night sky. In mythology, it was Urania who took care of Pegasus.

Ann Stewart Anderson

Thalia, the Muse of comedy, wears a harlequin dress. A trick dog, wearing a fantasy hat, sits in front of her.

In each work, the Muse is "pursuing her own identity and responsibility."

John Hale, a UofL archaeologist, noted after Anderson’s talk that her Muses differ from other depictions in that she showed them "working at it. I don’t think they’ve been depicted as sweating over their art," he said.

Anderson hopes they provide inspiration to students.

"I hope they will inspire everyone who comes in here to read and write poetry," Anderson said. "If I were a student I would definitely come in here to study and muse about life or whatever."

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