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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
 

F. B. Tarbell, A History of Ancient Greek Art

Greek Painting

Apelles

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Of his many portraits of the great conqueror four are specifically mentioned by our authorities. One of these represented the king as holding a thunderbolt, i.e., in the guise of Zeus – a fine piece of flattery. For this picture, which was placed in the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, he is reported, though not on very good authority, to have received twenty talents in gold coin. It is impossible to make exact comparisons between ancient and modern prices, but the sum named would perhaps be in purchasing power as large as any modern painter ever received for a work of similar size.[1] It has been mentioned above that Apelles made a number of portraits of King Philip. He had also many sitters among the generals and associates of Alexander; and he left at least one picture of himself. His portraits were famous for their truth of likeness, as we should expect of a great painter in this age.

[1] Nicias, an Athenian painter and a contemporary of Apelles, is reported to have been offered by Ptolemy, the ruler of Egypt, sixty talents for a picture and to have refused the offer.

An allegorical painting by Apelles of Slander and Her Crew is interesting as an example of a class of works to which Lysippus's statue of Opportunity belonged. This picture contained ten figures, whereas most of his others of which we have any description contained only one figure each.

His most famous work was an Aphrodite, originally placed in the Temple of Asclepius on the island of Cos. The goddess was represented, according to the Greek myth of her birth, as rising from the sea, the upper part of her person being alone distinctly visible. The picture, from all that we can learn of it, seems to have been imbued with the same spirit of refinement and grace as Praxiteles's statue of Aphrodite in the neighboring city of Cnidus. The Coans, after cherishing it for three hundred years, were forced to surrender it to the emperor Augustus for a price of a hundred talents, and it was removed to the Temple of Julius Caesar in Rome. By the time of Nero it had become so much injured that it had to be replaced by a copy.

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