Phillida Rejecting Mopsus and Cimon: A Scene from Colley Cibber's 'Damon and Phillida' Damon and Phillida Reconciled: A Scene from Colley Cibber's 'Damon and Phillida'


This is the second of two pendant pictures illustrating scenes from a one-act opera Damon and Phillida by Colley Cibber (1671-1757) (see Tate T03111), first performed in 1729. In the opera, the handsome shepherd Damon courts Phillida, a shepherdess. However, Damon's inconstancy exposes her to the unwelcome attentions of two boorish shepherds, Mopsus and Cimon. Fortunately, she unexpectedly receives a dowry, enabling her to escape their clutches and accept the prodigal Damon. In the first scene Phillida rejects the advances of the kneeling Mopsus; in the second scene, illustrated here, she is reconciled with Damon, while in the background Cimon and Mopsus vent their frustration.

The opera Damon and Phillida was conceived as an 'after-piece', the slight story little more than an excuse for the performance of popular ballads, along the lines of The Beggar's Opera, by John Gay (1685-1732), which had taken London audiences by storm the previous year. Although Cibber's opera was a far less accomplished piece it was redeemed by the singing and acting of Kitty Clive (1711-85), who continued to play the role of Phillida until the 1750s. It is almost certainly her likeness that appears in the present pictures. Damon, who appears dressed in pink in the second picture, was sometimes played by a female actor (a so-called 'breeches part') which may explain his rather effeminate appearance.

Further reading:

Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth. British Painters born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery, 1988, pp.234-36, reproduced in colour.

Martin Postle
August 2000