Momus Criticizes the Gods' Creations
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Alternate title for this Maerten van Heemskerck painting: How to Lose Friends and Alienate Gods.

The gods of Olympus have just finished creating some of the first things in existence. And Momus, front and center, has arrived to critique their show-and-tell. To Hephaestus, who's just created mankind, he says that we would have been better crafted with a little door in the chest so that our secrets and thoughts could be seen. Momus' other criticisms aren't quite as existential. Poseidon's bull should've been made with the horns in front of the eyes. Aphrodite's shoes squeak and she talks too much (but Momus still thinks she's foine as hell). And Athena missed the boat entirely when she created the first home. That thing's missing a fifth-wheel and a Hemi. Because, according to Momus, houses would work better if we could up and move down the block in case scummy neighbors move in.

For Momus, you see, was the god of smartasses and critics (Sartle's kinda deity!). He receives prayers if what you need is a witty comeback or sharp insight to make your enemies balk and guffaw. He's also the patron deity for writers and poets, which is where this painting gets really unique. It's the first visual artwork depicting this scene. Authors across antiquity and into the Renaissance retold iterations of Momus' holier-than-thou ramblings. His story's pretty dramatic. Ending with expulsion from Olympus because the gods have had enough of his crap. He starts bothering mankind, so Zeus has him chained to a rock and castrated. Way harsh.

Maerten was probably painting this to say that everyone deserves to be criticized. Whether you're a god or high-ranking human being, your farts still stink. And, in classic van Heemskerck style, he set the painting in Rome rather than Haarlem, where he painted it. Rome was his favorite place in the world. He was that guy who'd take any conversation and ramrod it toward his Roman vacation years ago. Rome was his Disneyland, Wrigley Field, and Hawaiian beach at sunset all rolled into one. And in Momus, as in all other things, he's just aching to tell you about how you can only get real Italian food in Italy.