This stone sculpture was created in response to two passages in Ovid's Metamorphoses. The first passage occurs in Book 1 and recounts the restoration of mankind after a flood annihilates the corrupt majority:
The stones started to lose their essential hardness, slowly
to soften, and then to assume a new shape. They soon
and gathered a nature more gentle than stone. An outline
form could be seen, not perfectly clear, like a
partially carved from the marble and not yet properly
At this point in the poem, Deucalion and Pyrrha are the remaining two people on Earth, and they obey an oracle that advises them to scatter stones behind their backs in order to re-establish the human race. This sculpture represents one of the stones that takes shape and changes into the human form.
While the sculpture represents a transformation from stone to flesh, it also represents the reverse process. In Book 14, Anaxarete turns to stone when she sees Iphis’ corpse: her eyes “glazed over and froze, the warm blood / fled from her body” (753-754). The sculpture’s dual representation of a process and its reverse underscores Ovid’s central themes of instability and continual flux.
Lesley Thulin (CC ’14) is an English and Philosophy double-major. She works on the staff of the Columbia Daily Spectator, the Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism, and The Gadfly: Columbia's Undergraduate Magazine of Philosophy.