John's painting is based on mythology involving these two characters. It was painted on a canvas using oil. The painting is currently at Martin Beisly Fine Art Gallery in London. We will summarize the mythology and explore any subject matters from the artwork. Demophoon took part in the infamous Trojan War. When the war was over, he was heading back home but stopped in Thrace to rest. In Thrace, he met Phyllis. Her father was the king of the region. Demophoon was smitten with her and decided to marry her. However, before he could marry her; he had to leave Thrace for an urgent mission. Phyllis decided to give her husband a casket to take with him. She asked him to only open it, should he change his mind about marrying her. He eventually settled in Cyprus and forgot about her.
Phyllis frequently visited the seashore in the hopes he would sail by. She lost all hope and decided to end her life. When she ends her life, the gods take pity on her soul and instead turn her into an almond tree. When Demophoon learned of this, he became remorseful and visited her. He desperately caressed her feet and the tree began to flower. Soon, Phyllis' body began to form. She does forgive him but he is forced to accept the fact that she would never regain her full human form. The themes that stand out from the mythology are betrayal and lack of communication. John perhaps wanted his audience to learn that your mistakes or misdeeds can cause pain to the people you love. Demophoon promises to marry Phyllis only for him to settle in Cyprus.
She is forced to visit the seashore frequently waiting for him. Sometimes your misdeeds leave a permanent scar on the person you mistreat. In this case, the woman becoming a tree permanently. John's first painting Sleep and his Half-brother Death (1874) was displayed in an exhibition. The painting was based on Greek mythology. This painting's success may have pushed him to incorporate more Greek themes in his subsequent works. Another gifted portrait painter who generally focused on the female body was Degas, who gave us the likes of Absinthe, Racehorses in a Landscape and The Bath.