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This painting illustrates the story of Cadmus, founder of the ancient city of Thebes, as told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Cadmus is slaying the dragon that has killed his companions. They have died trying to collect spring water from the dragon’s cave, not knowing that it is sacred to the god Mars. Cadmus is protected by a lion-skin and armed with a javelin. The Italian painter Zuccarelli left Venice for London in 1752, his mythological landscapes popular with British patrons. In 1768 he was commissioned to produce works for George III, and was a founding member of The Royal Academy.

February 2016