15 December 2009

Verginia and Appius Claudius

Appius Claudius, one of the decemvirs assigned the task of codifying Roman law in the 5th century BC, declared a freeborn young Roman woman called Verginia to be legally a slave of one of his clients in order to be able to rape her with impunity. Seeing no other way of keeping her out of Appius Claudius's clutches her father stabbed her to death. You can read Livy's version of the story here on Perseus (click the right pointing arrow to continue) and Dionysius of Halicarnassus's version here on LacusCurtius.

In the 1470s Filippino Lippi painted a picture of the story of Verginia, which is now in Paris's Louvre, while in 1498 Botticelli painted the above picture which is now in Bergamo's Accademia Carrara. (public domain image from wikicommons)

Francesco de Mura painted his "Death of Verginia" around 1760. It is now in the Manchester Art Gallery. Henry Tresham also painted a Death of Verginia in 1797, which is now in London's Royal Academy of Arts.

05 December 2009

Perseus and Medusa: the 19th century and after

Last time we looked at Perseus and Medusa in the 16th and 17th centuries. I haven't found anything in the 18th century, so moving on to the 19th century, the 1806 statue on the left is by Canova and now in New York's Metropolitan Museum. An earlier version of this statue is in the Vatican Museum, but not on their website. (image used by permission of metmuseum.org)

George Watts sculpted a head of Medusa while visiting Florence in the 1840s. It is now in Compton's Watts Gallery (there doesn't seem to be any way of linking directly to the page, so you'll have to search for Medusa). (public domain image from museumsyndicate.com)

Arnold Bocklin painted this picture of Medusa in 1878 or thereabouts. It is now in a private collection.

Maximilian Pirner painted the top painting of Medusa in 1891, while Carlos Schwabe painted his Medusa in 1895 I have not been able to find either's present location, so I assume they are both in private collections.

Jacek Malczewski painted this Medusa in 1900. It is now in the Lviv Art Gallery, which does not seem to have a website.

Vincenzo Gemito produced a relief head of Medusa in 1911, which is now in Los Angeles's Getty Center.

To finish off with here is a rather nice cartoon version of the story of Perseus and Medusa produced by ABC and the University of Melbourne. (all images are in the public domain and come from wikicommons unless otherwise credited)

18 October 2009

Perseus and Medusa: the 16th and 17th centuries

After Perseus defeats the sea monster and rescues Andromeda, the Ethiopians hold a feast in his honour and he tells the story of how he defeated Medusa.

Benvenuto Cellini's famous statue of Perseus with the head of Medusa is in Florence and dates from 1545-1554. John Singer Sargent produced a series of sketches and paintings of the statue, two of which are shown below, in the first decade of the 20th century. The upper picture is now in Washington's National Gallery of Art, and the lower picture is in the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (but not on their website). For more on Sargent's pictures of the statue see this site.

Youtube has a short slideshow of photos of Cellini's work taken from various angles:

The above painting of the head of Medusa on a shield is by Caravaggio. Painted in 1596, it is now in Florence's Uffizi Gallery (scroll down). Caravaggio painted another version of the same picture a year or so later which is now in a private collection and not online that I can see. Caravaggio's painting is discussed in this Guardian article.

Painted about the same time, and also now in the Uffizi is this painting by an unknown Flemish artist. For a long time it was thought to be one of the paintings of Medusa Leonardo Da Vinci is known to have painted but which have been lost. It served as the inspiration a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley (dialogic hypertext here).

The above picture of Medusa's head was painted in 1617-1618 by Rubens and is now in Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum. It is discussed in detail here.

Bernini produced a bust of Medusa in the 1640s, which is now in Rome's Musei Capitolini, where it is currently undergoing restoration.

Maffei's picture of Perseus Cutting off Medusa's Head (above) was painted in 1650 and is now in Venice's Gallerie dell'Accademia, but is not on their website. (all images are in the public domain and come from wikicommons)

08 October 2009

Comments Policy

I've just received a comment on a review I posted in this blog. The comment basically agrees with what I said in my review but expresses itself much more harshly than I would. The comment is also anonymous, which makes me feel uncomfortable about publishing something that could be construed as an attack on somebody's professionalism. I've decided therefore that I'm not going to publish anonymous comments.

26 September 2009

Nicholas Hilliard

One of the plot points in Michael Innes's Lord Mullion's Secret involves miniatures by Nicholas Hilliard, a painter or limner at Elizabeth I's court (Hilliard's self portrait left). Although miniatures are small, the word actually derives from the Latin 'minium', meaning red lead. Since red lead was mainly used for illuminated manuscripts and small portable paintings, the word gradually took on the meaning 'small'.

The largest collection of Hilliard miniatures is in London's Victoria and Albert Museum. Every detail in miniatures is significant. Perhaps Hilliard's most famous work is the portrait below of an anonymous young man in a rose garden. For a discussion see this article from the V&A.

The Guardian discusses this Hilliard miniature from the V&A of a young man against a background flames, while The Independent discusses the miniature below, also from the V&A.

Timea Tallian and Alan Derbyshire of the V&A discuss Hilliard's techniques based on experimental reconstructions. Unfortunately, Hilliard's own work, "Treatise on the Arte of Limning", is not online.

The YouTube video below shows a selection of Hilliard's work to the tune of Greensleeves:

22 September 2009


Alcuin was born around 735 and grew up in York, where he attended the cathedral school. Encouraged by his teachers, one of whom became the Archbishop of York, he was appointed head of the school, where he was one of the key figures in preserving and enlarging the cathedral library. He gained such a reputation as a teacher that in 782 Charlemagne invited him to come to the continent to establish a palace school and scriptorium. Alcuin stayed with Charlemagne till his retirement in 796, when Charlemagne appointed him abbot of a monastery at Tours.He died in 804.

Alcuin's palace school at Charlemagne's court seems to have been an important influence in the adoption of the script we know as Caroline Minuscule (example above) and the copying of manuscripts in the new script. The picture below of Alcuin presenting manuscripts to Charlemagne was painted by Victor Schnetz in 1830 and is now in Paris's Louvre.

Alcuin wrote a number of textbooks in the form of dialogues. One example is this dialogue between Alcuin and Charlemagne's son Pippin. He also produced a set of mathematical puzzles Propositiones ad Acuendos Juvenes. The Wikipedia article on this work (caveat quaerens) links to a Latin version and a couple of English translations.

Alcuin also edited the Vulgate and wrote a number of theological works on the Trinity. The Catholic Encyclopedia and the Anglican Biographical Sketches have articles on Alcuin from their respective viewpoints. (all images are in the public domain and are taken from wikicommons)

16 September 2009

My New Blog

I'm starting a new blog called Elegant Extracts. It's basically just excerpts from books I'd like to share for various reasons. Do drop by. Matters Arising will continue. I'm currently gathering material for a post on Alcuin but work commitments are slowing things down.

10 September 2009

More Welcomes

Welcome to new followers Chris Ann Matteo, who runs a number of blogs related to teaching Latin in the United States, and David Powell, who blogs at studenda mira.

06 September 2009


I have written before about the life of Coriolanus as told by Livy and Plutarch and about Shakespeare's use of Plutarch's Life of Coriolanus. Irene Hahn of Roman History Books and More has written about Coriolanus in the arts, something I'd like to expand on.

Some time between 1495 and 1510 Michele da Verona painted Coriolanus Persuaded By His Family To Spare Rome, which is now in London's National Gallery. Towards the end of that period Luca Signorelli painted a fresco with the same title, also now in the National Gallery.

In the first half of the 17th century Nicolaus Knupfer produced a drawing of Coriolanus Receiving Roman Matrons, which is now in the British Museum. In the second quarter of the 17th century Bartolomeo Biscaino produced a painting of , which was sold in 2005, presumably to a private collection.

Poussin produced the above picture, Coriolanus Supplicated by His Mother, in 1650. It is now in Les Andelys's Musée Nicolas Poussin. (image from aiwaz.net used by permission)

Filippo Abbiati's picture Coriolanus Persuaded By His Family To Raise the Siege of Rome was painted in 1661 and is now in a private collection after being sold in 1996. In 1674 Gerbrand van den Eeckhout painted "Volumnia Before Coriolanus", now in Oregon's Portland Art Museum (it can be seen in this gallery view directly underneath the gallery name on the wall).

Around 1730, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo painted the above picture of Coriolanus, which is now in St. Petersburg's State Hermitage. (public domain picture from arthermitage.org)

In the 1780s, Giuseppe Bernadino Bison drew a picture of Coriolanus and the women of Rome which is now in Washington's National Gallery of Art.

In 1831 Jacques-Raymond Brascassat painted a more rural view of Coriolanus and his mother, now in the Monte Carlo Museum (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

In 1860 George Frederick Watts produced this study for a fresco in Bowood House. I have not been able to track down the location of the study so I assume it's in a private collection. More studies can be seen at London's Watts Gallery (search for Coriolanus). (public domain image from museumsyndicate.com)

The above statue of Virgilia by Thomas Woolner was produced in 1871 and is in Strawberry Hill, London. (wikimedia image used under GNU Free Documentation Licence)

25 August 2009


to one of my followers, Julie Delvaux, whose blog Los Cuadernos de Julia, has been named a Blog of Note.

22 August 2009

A Belated Welcome

to another follower, Gary Corby, author of an eagerly awaited series of detective stories set in Periclean Athens, with Socrates's big brother Nicolaos as the detective. Gary's blog is called A Dead Man Fell From the Sky

21 August 2009

Perseus and Andromeda: The 20th century and After

We conclude our look at interpretations of the story of Perseus and Andromeda with a couple of examples from the 20th century.

Odilon Redon's 1912 picture of Andromeda is now in Little Rock's Arkansas Art Center.

In 1921 Jacques Ibert wrote an opera about Perseus and Andromeda.

The Ray Harryhausen 1981 stop-motion film about Perseus and Andromeda, Clash of the Titans, is being remade, with the new version due out in March 2010. The trailer for the original can be seen below, and of course there are various excerpts on YouTube.

15 August 2009

Perseus and Andromeda: The 19th century

We turn now to the 19th century in our exploration of the story of Perseus and Andromeda.

Ingres's painting shown above was painted around about 1819. It is now in a private collection. (used under creative commons licence, courtesy of www.jeanaugustedominiqueingres.org)

In 1840 Theodore Chasseriau produced the painting above, which is now in Paris's Louvre. (public domain picture from commons.wikimedia.org)

Eugene Delacroix's Andromeda was painted in 1852. It is now in Houston's Museum of Fine Arts but does not appear to be on their website. (used under creative commons licence, courtesy of www.eugenedelacroix.org)

Two artists painted Andromeda in 1869. The upper picture is by Gustave Dore. I haven't been able to find out its present whereabouts, so I assume it's probably in a private collection somewhere. The lower picture is by Edward Poynter and is now in London's Tate Britain. (both pictures are in the public domain and come from commons.wikimedia.org)

Around the same time Gustave Moreau produced the above picture, which is now in the Bristol City Gallery, but not on their website. (public domain picture from www.the-athenaeum.org))

Lord Frederic Leighton's picture dates to 1891 and is now in Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery. (public domain picture from www.museumsyndicate.com)

10 August 2009

Perseus and Andromeda: The 18th century

We continue our exploration of the theme of Perseus and Andromeda, moving into the 18th century with a picture painted in 1723 by François Lemoyne and now in London's The Wallace Collection. A few years later in 1727 Charles-Antoine Coypel also painted Perseus Rescuing Andromeda, which is now in Paris's Louvre. It is not on the Louvre's website, but can be seen in the Joconde database of artworks belonging to the French government. (wikicommons starmap by Roberto Mura used under creative commons licence)

In 1726, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni returned to Venice from political exile. In honour of the occasion a serenata called Andromeda Liberata was commissioned and performed only to languish thereafter till it was rediscovered in 2002. It is a matter of some musicological dispute whether the serenata was composed by one musician or several, but it is certain that one of the arias, Sovvente il sole, was written by Antonio Vivaldi. The above YouTube extract has the finale from a 2006 performance in Cremona. The New York Times has a background piece to the manuscript's discovery.

In 1730, Tiepolo painted a picture now in New York's Frick Collection, as a study for a ceiling fresco now lost due to WWII bombing.

Anton Raphael Mengs produced the above picture in 1774-1777. It is now in St. Petersburg's State Hermitage. (public domain picture from wikicommons)

Lastly, in 1787 Michael Haydn (brother of the more famous Joseph) wrote an opera, "Andromeda und Perseus", an aria from which can be heard in the YouTube video embedded above.

30 July 2009

Perseus and Andromeda: The 17th century

In the early 1600s Carlo Saraceni, inspired by Giorgio Vasari's Perseus and Andromeda, which we looked at in my previous post, produced the picture below of Andromeda in Chains, which is now in Dijon's Musée des Beaux-Arts, but not on their website.(the picture of coral on the left was produced by the United States National Oceanic and Atmpospheric Administration and is thus in the public domain. From wikicommons)

In 1610 Mozzarone painted a picture of Andromeda which is now in Florence's Uffizi Gallery.

Another similar painting by Joachim Wtewael shown above, dates from 1611 and is now in Paris's Louvre.

Rubens painted three versions of Perseus and Andromeda. The top picture is in St. Petersburg's State Hermitage while the middle picture is in Berlin's Gemälde Galerie Kulturforum, but not on their website. They were both painted in 1620 or 1621, while the bottom picture was one he was working on when he died in 1640 and is now in Madrid's Prado (direct link to picture not possible).

At about the same time as Rubens was painting the first two of his pictures of Perseus, Lully was composing an opera about Perseus and Andromeda: Persée, the opening of a recent TV production of which can be seen in the above embedded YouTube video. Other parts of this production are also available on YouTube.

Around 1630 Rembrandt painted the above picture, which is now in the Hague's Mauritshuis (scroll down).

The tapestry shown above was designed by Francis Cleyn and made from 1635-1645. It is now in London's Victoria and Albert Museum, but is not on their website.

The above 1679 painting by Pierre Mignard is now in Paris's Louvre.

Also in the Louvre are the above 1678-1684 statue of Perseus and Andromeda by Pierre Puget and a 1671 drawing by Claude Lorrain, depicting not Perseus's rescue of Andromeda but the creation of coral from seaweed by Medusa's head while Perseus is washing his hands in the sea after killing the monster. The drawing was preparation for the painting below, now in a private collection. (Picture of statue in the public domain according to museumsyndicate.com, picture below used under creative commons licence)

We'll finish this look at the 17th century with a 17th century copy of Guido Reni's 1635 Perseus and Andromeda in London's National Gallery (the original is in the Pallavicini collection in Rome, but not on their website) and a 1638 picture in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which may or may not be by Anthony van Dyck. It serves as the hook for this article from the Los Angeles Times on the re-attribution of works of art. (pictures not otherwise credited are in the public domain and come from wikicommons)

24 July 2009

Perseus and Andromeda: The 16th century

In my previous post, we looked at Burne-Jones's series of pictures based on the stories of Perseus, but now let's look at art based on the story of Perseus and Andromeda in more detail. It was a very popular subject(damsels in distress who are suffering from a variety of wardrobe malfunctions sold well we must assume), so again we'll take it century by century, starting in the 16th century. (Wikicommons picture of the constellation Perseus by Torsten Bronger. Used under GNU Free Documentation Licence.)

This picture was painted by Piero di Cosimo around 1513 and is now in Florence's Uffizi Gallery.

Around 1524 Nicola da Urbino created a dinner service for Isabella d'Este, duchess of Mantua, decorated with scenes from the Metamorphoses. The one showing Perseus and Andromeda is now in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

In the mid 1550s Titian painted the above picture, which is now in London's The Wallace Collection.

This painting from 1570 is by Vasari and is now in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio. 10 years later Veronese painted Perseus Rescuing Andromeda, which is now in Rennes's Musée des Beaux-Arts.

Our last painting from the 16th century was painted in 1593 to 1594 by the Cavaliere d'Arpino (aka Giuseppe Cesari). It is now in the St. Louis Art Museum. (Unless stated otherwise, all pictures are taken from wikicommons where they are said to be in the public domain)