Iphis and Ianthe prints

Iphis consults the goddess Io

Iphis is in despair. She only lives because of the goddess Io, yet the goddess's intervention means that Iphis does not really belong in the normal world at all. She would love to have a happy life with her Ianthe, but that fate, both joyous and ordinary, is barred to her. Worse, Iphis's true nature will soon be revealed, leading to her ruin. (Print number 5.)

Iphis addresses the goddess, telling Io that although she owes her life to her, the life she has is intolerable. It is the right of the gods to try mortals to see if they are worthy of their attention, but Iphis can see no way out, and wishes the gods had tried her with any other fate than this.

The gods of course are not deceived by outward appearances. Io can see into Iphis's very soul, and this is symbolised by the fading away of Iphis's clothes under the goddess's gaze. Io herself was once tried by a god, and suffered to become immortal, nevertheless her gaze is objective and her compassion is tempered by the will of a power higher than her own.

It is not through mercy that Io transforms Iphis, but because Iphis is willing to take the risk of being transformed.

The image of Io is adapted from a bronze head of Aphrodite in the British Museum.

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