Sappho and Alcaeus
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema 1881
From the collection of
The Walters Art Museum
In 1870, the Dutch-born, Belgian-trained artist Alma-Tadema moved to London, where he found a ready market among the wealthy middle classes for paintings re-creating scenes of domestic life in imperial Roman times. In this work, however, he turns to early Greece to illustrate a passage by the ancient Greek poet Hermesianax (active ca. 330 BC) preserved in Atheneaus, Deipnosophistae, “Banquet of the Learned,” book 2, line 598. On the island of Lesbos (Mytilene), in the late 7th century BC, Sappho and her companions listen rapturously as the poet Alcaeus plays a “kithara.” Striving for verisimilitude, Alma-Tadema copied the marble seating of the Theater of Dionysos in Athens, although he substituted the names of members of Sappho’s sorority for those of the officials incised on the Athenian prototype.
Title: Sappho and Alcaeus
Date Created: 1881
Physical Dimensions: w122 x h104.1402 cm
Type: oil paintings; panel paintings
Rights: Acquired by William T. Walters, after 1881, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
External Link: The Walters Art Museum http://art.thewalters.org/detail/10245
Medium: oil on panel
Provenance: William T. Walters, Baltimore, after 1881, by purchase [Deschamps as agent]; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1894, by inheritance; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Inscriptions: [Signature] Lower right: L. Alma Tadema; [Inscription] Lower right: Op CCXXII
ExhibitionHistory: Victorian Painting. The Fine Arts Society, London. 1977; Empires Restored, Elysium Revisited: The Art of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum, AJ Amsterdam; The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown; The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore; Taft Museum of Art, Cincinatti; The Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis. 1991-1992; Victorians: British Painting in the Reign of Queen Victoria, 1837-1901. National Gallery of Art, Washington. 1997; A Magnificent Age: Masterpieces from the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte. 2002-2004; Howard Pyle and the American Renaissance. Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford. 2007
Artist: Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, R.A., O.M.
The Walters Art Museum
Baltimore, United States
The Walters Art Museum is one of only a few museums in the world to present a panorama of art from the third millennium B.C. to the early 20th century. The thousands of treasures range from mummies to arms and armor, from old master paintings to Art Nouveau jewelry. The Walters’ Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ethiopian and Western Medieval art collections are among the finest in the nation, as are the museum’s holdings of Renaissance and Asian art and a spectacular reserve of illuminated manuscripts and rare books. Every major trend in French painting during the 19th century is represented in the collection.
Jan 8, 1836 – Jun 25, 1912
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, OM, RA was a Frisian painter of special British denizenship.
Born in Dronrijp, the Netherlands, and trained at the Royal Academy of Antwerp, Belgium, he settled in England in 1870 and spent the rest of his life there. A classical-subject painter, he became famous for his depictions of the luxury and decadence of the Roman Empire, with languorous figures set in fabulous marbled interiors or against a backdrop of dazzling blue Mediterranean Sea and sky.
Though admired during his lifetime for his draftsmanship and depictions of Classical antiquity, his work fell into disrepute after his death, and only since the 1960s has it been re-evaluated for its importance within nineteenth-century English art.