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Caenis is a character from Ovid's Metamorphoses: it is the story of a beautiful woman which, after being abused by Neptune, expresses the desire and, then, is transformed into a man, becoming an invincible warrior.

Caenis stems from my desire to create and wear an armor of defense against the outside world: If the easiest ways to get affirmation and success in society are relegated to men, my reaction is to take possession of the men’s images and to wear them. If then my armor, once in contact with real life, arouses horror, abjection and a sense of grotesque, means that I have reached my aim: the realization of the pleasure of being a woman.

Assuming that in art the female body represents perfection, harmony and elegance, I take in consideration the male body as the representation of the opposite, highlighting its abject aspects and imperfections.
The aim of this work is to evoke disorienting, frightening but also potentially comic feelings a conscious confusion between fantasy and reality: hallmarks, these, of the grotesque realm.

From the Metamorphoses by Ovid

'I myself once saw Caeneus of Thessaly enduring a thousand blows, without any injury to his person.

He lived on Mount Othrys, and he was renowned for his exploits. His invulnerability was the more surprising, for he had been born a woman.

Who was Ceaneus? Why did he change to the opposite sex? On what expedition or in what battle did he become known to you? Who conquered him, if he was conquered by anybody?'


'Caenis, the daughter of Elatus, was famous for her beauty. She was the loveliest of all the girls in Thessaly, and roused jealous hopes in the hearts of many suitors throughout all the neighbouring cities.

Caenis refused to marry anyone, but the story spread that, as she was wandering on a lonely part of the shore,

she was forcibly subjected to the embraces of Neptune, the god of the sea.'


‘You may pray for anything without fear of being refused. Choose what you want’ said Neptune to the girl when he had enjoyed the pleasures of his new love.'

‘The wrong I have suffered’ replied Caenis ‘Evokes the fervent wish that I may never be able to undergo such an injury again. Grant that I be not a woman, and you will have given me all’

The last words were uttered in deeper tones: that voice could be taken for the voice of a man, as indeed it was.

For already the god of the deep sea had granted Caenis’ prayer, bestowing this further boon, that the man Caeneus should be proof against any wound, and should never be slain by the sword.'


‘Caenis, I say, for to me you will always be a woman, always Caenis. Does not your birth remind you, does it not occur to you, for what you deed you were thus rewarded, at what a price you acquired the appearance of a man, to which you have no right? Consider what you were born or, if you prefer, what you suffered, and go, take up your distaff and baskets of wool, twist the threads with your thumb, and leave war to men!’


‘The edge of my sword will slay you, since the point is blunt!’ and, turning his blade sideways, he reached round Caeneus’ thighs, with his long right arm. The blow resounded as if marble had been stuck and the sword blade shivered into pieces on that hardened skin.’


‘What a disgrace!’ cried Monychus ‘We, a whole people, are worsted by a single man, and scarcely a man at that!

Yet truly he is a man, and we, by our weak efforts, are mere women, such as he used to be.’

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