The diminutive nude female figure in this composition’s upper right is often identified as Echo—a mountain nymph of Greek mythology. Far more dominant, however, is the monstrous green vegetal creature—or is it creatures?—in the foreground. This wildly imaginative, hydra-headed creation may represent Narcissus, whom Echo loved. Famously, Narcissus fell in love with his own beautiful image reflected in a pool and wasted away from unsatisfied desire, whereupon he was transformed into a flower. The various delicately colored floral effusions in Ernst’s painting recall this moment of metamorphosis.
Gallery label from Max Ernst: Beyond Painting, September 23, 2017-January 1, 2018.