Art In Short Stories: Apelles and Alexander the Great

Unfortunately too little samples of Ancient Greek painting have survived till our days. And one of the most well-known is probably the depiction Alexander the Great holding a Thunderbolt by Apelles, in the temple of Artemis at Ephesus. The whole image is very expressive and the thunderbolt seems to stand out from the picture; but the most amazing thing is that the piece was produced only by using four colours. Apelles is said to receive the price of this picture in gold coin measured by weight of the panel – around twenty talents, which  is 1,100 ounds or 518 kg!

Another story of the relations between the artist and the patron is connected with Campaspe – one of Alexander the Great’s mistresses. While sketching Apelles fell in love with her and, as Pliny’s claims in Natural History: “Seeing the beauty of the nude portrait, Alexander saw that the artist appreciated Campaspe (and loved her) more than he. And so Alexander kept the portrait, but presented Campaspe to Apelles.” What a generous ‘gift’!

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