The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.


in that quarter ; and he also paid the most flatter­ing attentions to the artist himself. Protogenes, who was residing in his suburban cottage (comp. /. c. s. 37 t casula Protogenes contentus est in hor-tulo suo) amidst the very camp of Demetrius, when the hostilities commenced, proceeded in his works with his usual steady perseverance, and, on the king's sending for him and asking how he could be so bold as to live and work without the walls, he replied, that he knew that the king was at war with the Rhodians, but not with the arts. His confidence had its reward. Demetrius stationed guards about his house, to preserve him from injury ; and, instead of calling him away from his work to play tne courtier, he himself withdrew from the military cares on which he was so intent, to visit the artist in his studio, and stood watching his work surrounded by the din of arms and the thunder of the battering engines. In the honour­able tranquillity thus secured to him during this year of tumult, Protogenes completed one of his most celebrated works. (Plin. /. c.; comp. vii. 38. s. 39.)

This form of the story is not only the most interesting, but at least as credible as any other, since Pliny doubtless copied it from some old Greek writer upon art. According to Plutarch (.Demetr. 22, Reg. et Imp. Apophih. p. 183, b.) the picture on which Protogeries was engaged in his suburban residence, was the lalysus itself; and the Rhodians, alarmed for the safety of the un­finished work, sent heralds to Demetrius, to entreat him to spare it, to whom Demetrius replied, that he would rather destroy the images of his father than that picture. Aulus Gellius (xv. 3) gives still another, and the least probable version of the story. (See also Suid. s. v.)

From this story it appears that Protogenes lived at least down to b.c. 303 ; and, connecting this with the statement that he was fifty years old before he attained to wealth and high reputation, the conjecture of Meyer (Gescli. d. bild. Kunst, vol. i. p. 189), that he was born about 01. 104, is not improbable. Miiller gives 01. 112—120, b. c. 332—300, as the time during which he flou­rished.

Protogenes belongs to the number of self-taught artists ; at least in so far as this, that he owed comparatively nothing of his merits or reputation to whatever instruction he mav have received.


The name of his teacher was unknown ; and the obscurity in which he so long lived is a proof that he had none of the prestige which attaches to the pupils of a celebrated school. His disadvantages in this respect he laboured to counteract by the most unwearied diligence. In characterizing the several painters of the period of the perfection of the art, Quintilian mentions Protogenes as excelling the rest in the care with which he wrought up his pictures (xii. 10. § 6). On his most celebrated picture he is said to have spent Seven years, or even, according to another statement, eleven ; and to have painted it four times over (Plin. /. c. ; Aelian, xii. 41 ; Fronto, 11), In the opinion of Apelles, he carried this elaboration of his works to a fault, as we learn from an interesting story which is told, with some variations, by Pliny, Aelian, and Plutarch, respecting the criticisms of Apelles on the work just referred to, the lalysus of Pro­togenes. On first beholding the picture, Apelles stood in silent admiration ; and presently he



remarked that the work and the artist were alike great, and that Protogenes was in every respect equal to himself or even superior, with the excep­tion of two points, the one, that he did not know when to take his hand off his picture, the other, that he was deficient in that peculiar grace which Apelles always claimed as the one great quality by which he himself excelled all other artists (Plin. L c. § 10 ; Plut. Demetr. 22 ; Aelian, /. c. ; comp. Cic. Oral. 22). Several passages might be quoted to prove the high esteem in which Protogenes was held by the ancients. That truth to nature, which in various degrees characterised the works of all the great artists of the age, was so conspicuous in his, that Petronius speaks of them as vying in truth with nature herself (Sat. 84). Cicero mentions him as one of the painters whose works were per­fect in every respect. (Brut. 18 ; see also Varro, L. L. ix 12, ed. Miiller ; Colum. R.R. i. praef. § 31.)

The number of the works of Protogenes was comparatively small, as Pliny remarks, on account of the labour he bestowed upon each of them. His master-piece was the picture of lalysus, the tutelary hero of Rhodes, to which reference has already been made. If we may believe the anecdote preserved by Pliny, the artist lived, during all the years he was engaged on this picture, upon moistened lu­pines, in order that he might just satisfy the cravings of hunger and thirst, without subjecting himself to any sensation of corporeal pleasure which might interfere with the devotion of his whole faculties to the work. The same writer informs us that Protogenes painted this picture over four several times, as a precaution against damage and decay, so that, if one surface should be removed, another might appear from beneath it. Nearly all modern artists treat this reason as absurd, and explain the fact mentioned by Pliny, supposing it to be correct, simply as an example of the artist's elaborate finish. Very possibly the statement may be a conjecture of Pliny's own, founded upon the appearance presented by some parts of the picture, where the colour had peeled off. Another of Pliny's stories about the picture relates to the accidental production of one of the most effective parts of it, the foam at the mouth of a tired hound. The artist, he tells us, dissatisfied with his repeated at­tempts to produce the desired effect, at last, in his vexation, dashed the sponge, with which he had repeatedly effaced his work, against the faulty place ; and the sponge, charged as it was by re­peated use with the necessary colours, left a mark in which the painter recognised the very foam which his art had failed to produce. Amidst all this truly Plinian gossip about the picture, we are left in profound ignorance of its composition : all that is clear is, that the hero was represented either as hunting, or as returning or just returned from the chase. It was, no doubt, dedicated in the temple of lalysus at Rhodes, where it escaped de­struction in the siege by Demetrius, as above re­lated, and where it was seen by Cicero (Orat. 2), who again refers to it in a manner which perhaps implies that it had suffered from neglect (ad Att. ii. 21 : we say perhaps, because the sentence is merely hypothetical). He also mentions it in his enumeration of the chief works of art existing in his time (in Verr. iv. 60). In the time of Strabo it was still at Rhodes (xiv. p. 652) ; but, when Plinv wrote, it had been carried to Rome, where

v f *

About | First



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of