The Winds of Waterhouse

Zephyrus The Awakener

Come, thou awakener of the spirit’s ocean,
Zephyr, whom to thy cloud or cave
No thought can trace! speed with thy gentle motion! –Percy Bysshe Shelley

Flora and the Zephys, Waterhouse
Flora and the Zephyrs, John William Waterhouse (1897)
Study for 'Flora and the Zephyrs'
Study for Flora and the Zephyrs

“ZEPHYROS (or Zephyrus) was the god of the west wind, one of the four directionalAnemoi (Wind-Gods). He was also the god of spring, husband of Khloris (Greenery), and father of Karpos (Fruit).”–via

Zephyrus kisses Flora’s arm as he wraps a garland of white roses around her (symbolic of sexual awakening?). Although she is surrounded by beautiful nymphs, his focus on Flora is constant. This is a story of transfiguration: Flora is transformed into the goddess of flowers.

'Boreas', John William Waterhouse
Boreas, John William Waterhouse
Study for 'Boreas'
Study for Boreas

In a tale told by Ovid, Boreas was the North Wind and the brother of Zephyrus. Smitten with the maiden Oreithyia, who rejected him, he abducted her as she was picking flowers and married her.

Waterhouse depicted Flora in a posture that could be interpreted  as open and receptive to Zephyrus. There’s a different attitude in Boreas: swathed in her drapery, Oreithyia has her arms lifted in a protective pose, attempting to shield herself from the wind. She seems to mimic the fetal position.

Waterhouse also visits wind as a subject in 1903’s Windflowers. Here her arms are less protective and more indicative of the personal chaos of being caught in the wind as she attempts to both hold her hair in place and keep control of her skirt and flowers.

'Windflowers', John William Waterhouse
Windflowers, John William Waterhouse

5 thoughts on “The Winds of Waterhouse”

  1. Such beautiful paintings! The purple colour is wonderful. I didn’t know Zephyr is the wind. It brings back memories of a range of cars that Ford used to make years ago!


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