Prometheus was the son of Iapetus, a Titan, and an Oceanid called Clymene. His name in Greek means “forethought”. His deeds were in opposition to the supreme god, Zeus, who planned to exterminate men and make place for a new race that would be a more obedient instrument to his rule. Prometheus, however, helped men living in misery and ignorance. He instructed them in various skills and arts and showed them how to use metals and fire. Because of his defiance, Zeus withdrew fire from the people, but Prometheus stole a spark in heaven and brought it back to mankind in a stem of anise. Because of this offence, Zeus ordered Prometheus chained to a desolate rock in the Caucasus. An eagle came to him every day at the same hour and pecked out his liver, which then regenerated.
The lyricism and moral depth of the Prometheus’ myth have spread across centuries, revealing its relevance to generation after generation. The idea of the revolutionary and indomitable warrior, the champion of mankind who stands resolute and suffers greatly because of it, inspired poets, artists and philosophers. During the Middle Ages, he was equated with Christ, who also suffered to deliver mankind from doom. Myths relate that the Prometheus owned the first-ever ring, made from his chains and a piece of rock from the Caucasus to which he was bound. After the fall of the Bastille (1789) during the French Revolution, the rebels emulated him by wearing rings with stones from the ramparts of the fortress, as symbols of resistance to the powerful and of radical social changes.According to one version of the story, Prometheus modelled humankind out of clay with the help of the goddess Athena, providing an example for artists, who also create their protagonists. The image of Prometheus the artist intertwined with the image of Prometheus the rebel, who despises and deposes old gods, and became a constant in art, especially in poetry. Goethe, Byron, Shelley interpreted the myth, as did France Prešeren in his poem To the Poet (1838): “Who may / Rout the vulture that seizes the heart for his prey / From dawn unto darkness, from darkness till day!”
Luca Giordano (Naples, 1634‒1705) was one of the leading Neapolitan painters of the late 17th century, who worked in several Italian cities (Naples, Rome, Padua, Venice). The Spanish King Charles II invited him to Madrid, where he essentially contributed to the development of Spanish Baroque painting. His work is stylistically diverse, ranging from imitations of the Renaissance masters to the influences of Jusepe de Ribera (1591‒1652), Caravaggio (1571‒1610), Annibale Carracci (1560‒1609), Pietro da Cortona (1596‒1669) and the Venetian masters of the 16th century. Like them, Prometheus Bound showcases drama, pathos and strong contrasts between light and shadow. Also crucial was a painting of the same motif that originates from the circle of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.