The Death of Atys
This sheet fits into the Neo-Classical movement that appeared at the end of the 18th century, influenced particularly by Jacques-Louis David. Dramatising the subject, Meynier puts all the vitality into the human figure, whether standing ready or collapsed with exhaustion after a heroic feat. The Exemplum virtutis here is expressed in the drawing, that is in the “style”, a crisp outline defining the forms.
In the foreground, the body of the Phrygian god Atys, standing alone, has a counterpoint in the figure of the nymph he loves and who is dying. Dominating this desolate group, the expression of the jealous goddess Cybele focuses the drama. The emphatic language of the gestures (taken from the great Italian Renaissance models), the intense pen and ink work of the draperies and the expression of desolation on the faces do not permit any psychological insight; the heavy outline of the forms reflects moral determination. The only exception to the severe line and expression is the languid, naked body of the young Atys, borrowed from David’s Barra.