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Cephalus & Procris

This is a story in Greek mythology which warns married couples of the dangers of jealousy and mistrust.  It was adapted by Ovid in his work Metamorphoses, illustrated in numerous editions of that work throughout the Renaissance and retold in the 19th century in Thomas Bulfinch's Mythology.

Eos/Aurora, goddess of the dawn, fell in love with the newly married Cephalus who rejected her.  In revenge she planted seeds of suspicion in his mind about his wife Procris.  In order to test her fidelity, he put on a disguise and tried, successfully, to seduce her.  Realizing what she had done she fled in shame to the woods where she hunted with Artemis/Diana who rewarded her with a magic javelin/arrow that never missed its target.  Reconciled eventually with her husband, Procris presented the weapon to Cephalus.  However,  Procris's suspicions about her husband's fidelity were aroused by a mischievous faun who claimed to have heard him talking to a lover.  Procris followed Cephalus out into the forest when he was hunting and hid behind some bushes to observe.  Believing the rustling in the bushes to be a wild beast, Cephalus threw his javelin/fired the arrow and killed Procris.  When he discovered what he had done he killed himself.

In Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream Pyramus and Thisbe refer to Shafalus and Procrus.  A similar scene of punishment for jealousy and infidelity, also illustrated in Ovid's Metamorphoses, shows Apollo shooting his wife Coronis with an arrow; however, the crow, a bird sacred to Apollo, is usually present in the scene, as is his lyre.  In the panel here illustrated the male figure is dressed as a down-to-earth 17th-century huntsman not as a god, making the attribution to Cephalus and Procris the more likely.

The subject is unusual in woodcarving but appears more commonly in prints and paintings.