Apelles

Discuss the culture of Alexander's world and his image in art

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Alexias
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Apelles

Post by Alexias »

His [Apelles'] politeness of manner made him all the more agreeable to Alexander the Great, who often visited his studio ... but in the studio Alexander would talk a great deal without understanding, and so Apelles persuaded him tactfully to keep his mouth shut, saying he was being laughed at by the boys who ground the pigments..
Pliny NH 35.85 Quoted by Lucilla Burn 'Hellenistic Art from Alexander the Great to Augustus' 2004

I find it difficult to believe that this is not apocryphal, partly because I can't imagine anyone telling Alexander to shut his mouth, particularly after he came back from India. It is also difficult to know when he could have occurred as it seems unlikely that Apelles would have followed Alexander as far as Bactria and India. It would seem more likely it occurred in Europe or Asia Minor, but it smacks of the leisured Roman aristocrat visiting an artist with his cronies because he had nothing better to do, and Alexander was far too busy warmongering in Greece, Thrace and against the Persians. Unless he were simply visiting the studio to pose for Apelles or inspect the progress of a painting.
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chris_taylor
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Re: Apelles

Post by chris_taylor »

interesting.

I googled the original (English translation only, as I don't speak Greek or Latin)
https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/te ... ,001:35:36

the translation says "prince".

I can't imagine Pliny referring to Alexander as a "prince" after his ascension to the throne. It might just be a mis-translation, but I can well imagine that scene happening between a famous, mature painter and a precocious, self-important crown prince who is in show-off-mode.

Alexander was fiercely protective of his reputation and wanted to be (and be seen to be) a hero. The threat "Shhh, people will laugh at you", coming from a master in his own field, is just the thing to say to get him to shut up.

quite funny, actually.
All men by nature desire understanding. Aristotle.
Alexias
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Re: Apelles

Post by Alexias »

'Prince' then implies that Apelles was working for Philip. Maybe some of the tomb paintings can be attributed to him.
hiphys
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Re: Apelles

Post by hiphys »

This anecdote belongs to a group of stories that illustrate the reaction of Alexander before a work of art, like the one reported by Aelian (V. H. 2, 3): he tells that Alexander didn't appreciate completely his portrait by Apelles, but his horse neighed to the depicted horse. Although these anecdotes (set both in Ephesus, apparently after the battle of Granicus and before the one of Issus) stress the ignorance of the laws of painting by Alexander, nevertheless they don't show a spiteful attitude toward the king, as some scholars say, because the stories seems to be born in the peripatetic school. As a matter of fact in the IV century a distinction between amateurs and professionals became a very deep one, but not to the detriment of the amateur, but to the professional because he was considered a 'bànausos', i. e. he belonged to the lowest-ranking part of the populace, who had to work for their's living. Therefore the anecdotes show that it is better for the reputation of kings like Alexander to be unable to aknowledge drawing technique. At the same time the stories , killing two birds with one stone, praise the greatness of the painter. There are also similar stories shaming people like Philip or Alexander for knowing music better than musicians do (Plutarch, Moralia 67 f; 179 b; 334 c-d; 634 d; Life of Pericles 1, 5: Aelian, V. H. 3, 32).
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