Muse on Pegasus. Odilon Redon. 1900. Black Pegasus. Odilon Redon. 1909. Private Collection.
PEGASUS, THE HORSE-GOD
A work of art is above all an adventure of the mind.
Eugene Ionesco (1909-94), French dramatist
Pegasus was a horse-god, the son of Poseidon and the Medusa. Athena (goddess of wisdom, war, the arts, and justice) captured him with a golden bridle and presented him to the Muses who put him in service to the poet. According to Greek myth, under his hooves the waters of the Muses (inspiration) flows.
Bellerophon was a Greek hero, a slayer of monsters and an accomplished equestrian. When he was a young adult, a seer told him that he would need Pegasus, during his quest to slay the chimera. In order to capture the winged horse, the seer advised him to make offerings to Athena and then to sleep in her temple. Bellerophon followed his advice and while he slept in the goddess's temple, she appeared to him in a dream. When he awoke, the golden bridle was on the floor beside him.
Bellerophon took the bridle and waited at the well of Pirene. Pegasus arrived there at dusk, as was his custom, and knelt to drink. Bellerophon sprung out of hiding and after quickly bridling the horse's head, he leapt on his back. Pegasus attempted to throw the youth, but he could not.
In addition to Black Pegasus I (1909) and Muse on Pegasus (1900), there are numerous other versions of the mythic horse-god by Redon, including: Pegasus Captured (1889), Pegasus (1894), White Pegasus (1900), Pegasus Triumphant alternately known as Pegasus and the Hydra (1907), and Black Pegasus II (1914).