The girl ran by on winged feet...faster than a Scythian arrow...Running itself made her beautiful. The wings on her speeding feet flew on the wind, her hair was lifted from her ivory shoulders, bright ribbons at her knees streamed behind her, and her fair skin glowed with a rosy hue.
Ovid, The Metamorphoses
In 1961, Georges Braque began working on a collection of jewelry and small sculptures based on the myths recounted in Ovid's epic poem, The Metamorphoses. The tale of the Arcadian heroine Atalanta (Atalante is a variant spelling) appears in Book Ten, in which Venus, who has fallen in love with Adonis and is accompanying him on a hunting expedition, tells the story of Atalanta while the two rest under a tree, as a warning to Adonis about not heeding advice from the gods.
Braque was surely entranced by the legend of Atalanta, a virgin huntress, known for her swiftness and ability to compete with men (her name may originate from the Greek word atalantos, meaning “equal in weight”). An oracle warned Atalanta that she would be doomed if she were to ever marry. Whenever a suitor approached her, she declared: “You cannot have me unless you defeat me in a race. Bid for me with your feet! To the swift, my hand and bed will be the prize; to the slow, the prize is death!”
Countless men were put to death for trying and failing to win over Atalanta, until Hippomenes challenged her after being taken with her beauty and strength. Knowing he wouldn't be able to outrun Atalanta, Hippomenes asked Venus to help him—she supplied him with three golden apples, which he used during the race to distract Atalanta when she would get ahead.
I couldn't portray a women in all her natural loveliness..I haven't the skill. No one has. I must, therefore, create a new sort of beauty, the beauty that appears to me in terms of volume of line, of mass, of weight, and through that beauty interpret my subjective impression...I want to express the absolute, not merely the factitious woman.
Hippomenes ends up winning the race and Atalanta's hand in marriage, though, failing to properly pay tribute to Venus for aiding his victory, both are transformed into lions as punishment.
Braque's expressive illustrations of the myths of The Metamorphoses occupied him in the last years of his life. His depiction of Atalanta, with wind-blown hair, elegant proportions and winged feet, is an especially ecstatic distillation of his artistic legacy of grounded, organic forms, suffused with an internal rhythm and spirit.