Many artists have depicted Narcissus, the legendary Greek hunter who loved to stare at his own image in pools of water, but eventually realized he could never possess just a reflection of himself, and in deep despair, killed himself. Other versions of the legend have him falling into the pool of water while staring at his reflection and drowning. But there’s more to the legend. For those of you who enjoy mythology or just like love stories, here’s the story in its entirety:
Narcissus was so beautiful that both men and women alike desired him, but Echo, a beautiful but overly talkative young woman, loved Narcissus most of all. Unfortunately, her adoration and devotion was unrequited because of Narcissus’ love for only himself. This seems so familiar to those of us who have been the victims in a relationship with a narcissist, doesn’t it?
I wonder if Narcissus would have gained narcissistic supply from knowing a well known and “popular” mental disorder was named after him. Probably.
Here are some of my favorite images of Narcissus (and Echo).
Caravaggio’s painting is my favorite, and I have used this image in a few other posts. Narcissus is so beautiful here, I could stare at him forever (just as poor Echo did). I love how lost he looks in his own reflection. He’s looking at it the way a man looks at a woman he’s fallen in love with.
John William Waterhouse’s 1903 painting of Narcissus and Echo is another of my favorites. Narcissus is completely unaware of Echo’s presence. You can tell she’s in love with him but he doesn’t want her. In fact, he doesn’t even know she exists. In his world, only he exists.
I do not know who painted this either. But notice how completely Echo is engaged, passionately embracing Narcissus, and yet he is not returning her embrace. He seems to be merely tolerating her. Theirs is definitely an unequal relationship.
There are many other images and paintings of Narcissus and Echo, but these are the ones that really capture my imagination and I think are the most beautiful.