Melchior Meier (German, active Tuscany ca. 1572–82)
plate 9 x 12 5/16 in. (22.9 x 31.3 cm)
Gift of Felix M. Warburg and his Family, 1941 (41.1.210)
According to Ovid, Apollo engaged in two musical competitions. When Marsyas boasted that his flute playing could rival the music of Apollo, the god proved his superiority and then punished Marsyas by flaying him alive. The Arcadian god Pan emerged unscathed from his own competition with Apollo, although King Midas, present at the contest, found his ears transformed into long, shaggy gray ones for his foolishness in preferring Pan's rustic notes to Apollo's ethereal harmonies.
Here, Meier has cleverly combined the two stories: as Midas points to the woodland god, Apollo not only grants the king ass's ears but mocks him with the skin of Marsyas, whose flayed body is displayed at left.