One of my influential classical painters is Sandro Botticelli. Even though I consider myself an expressionist painter, there are so many paintings out there that just catch my attention, either for the style of the painting or the meaning of the painting. I wrote a Art History paper while in college about Sandro Botticelli "The Calumny of Apelles" painting. Everything about this painting was interesting to me, the style, the meaning, and formation of this painting. Art History Paper below is copyrighted. Enjoy the reading. It's very interesting!
Lucy M. Inserra
“Calumny of Apelles”
Sandro Botticelli is an Italian Renaissance painter who mastered the unique style of Naturalism and Classical by using dimensions of lines that curved, lined to show motion within a painting. Botticelli essential style in bringing a balance of images between realism and idealism was influenced in Rome, Italy where he became influenced by the Classical and Naturalism of paintings of other masters, Dante’s Poetry, and worked for the rich and famous family of Medici. Botticelli’s “The Calumny of Apelles” 1495, was a painting copied by a Greek Artist Apelles, who lived in the 4th century B.C., described by a writer named Lucian. The original painting of “Calumny of Apelles” is now a lost painting that can be only described by those who had seen it. The painting came from an important Florentine family named Segni. The painting was eventually transferred to Florence from the Pitti Palace in 1773. An ancient painting that Botticelli painted with such detail, and contrast by the simple description of the words by Lucian, is now held at Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi.
The Painting, “Calumny of Appelles” is 62 X 91 cm painting done in tempera on panel. This allegory of the painting tells a story with the composition of the figures with a lavish architectural backdrop. The painting is read from right to left, starting with King Midas with two women beside him, ignorance and suspicion. In front of Midas is malice, who is pointing or reaching for Midas’s crown, and at the same time has a hold of Calumny’s arm with the torch. Calumny is shown to be dragging her half nude male victim by the hair, while her assistants envy and fraud fix her hair. Followed behind Calumny, to the left of the painting is penitence and further to the left is truth. The story beginning with King Midas, with ignorance and suspicion, the middle of the painting with malice, Calumny, envy and fraud, and then followed by penitence and truth. In detail of the gestures and the composition of the painting brings a story to life.
In more depth, the meaning could be interpreted in many ways from King Midas and his ignorance of the thrown, and his ruthlessness of his daughter, Calumny, or Apelles influence to the government, or the King during his time that shows malice, envy, and fraud in the kingdom and would only be ended with penitence and truth. The allegory of the painting could be political or part of a morality setting. If morality, the descriptions of the painting’s characters seem to be close to the seven deadly sins of pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth. Botticelli’s detail on the painting brings interest and intrigue of the story behind the painting of “Calumny of Apelles”.
The facts of the painting, was from a Greek myth of King Midas, who was a greedy and foolish man, who wanted to be rich so, that everything he touched turned into gold. King Midas wish came true, so that everything he touched turned to gold, even food and drink. Midas’s daughter Calumny was full of hatred. Calumny had two female servants named envy and fraud to help Calumny with her ornaments, robes, and hair style. Calumny herself was led by malice, envy and fraud like her father King Midas. Calumny seems to bring forth a man that has done her wrong, to King Midas. While the half naked man is praying for rescue, Calumny shows little remorse or guilt of punishment for the young man that will have to face his king. While an older woman, with dark color robe and hood is looking away from the scene of Calumny shows penitence will soon come, by looking back at a beautiful, nude woman that resembles truth will some day reveal all things.
The Classical aspect of the painting shows signs of bare feet on all characters meaning that they are standing on holy ground. The columns in the back ground are engraved with such detail of soldiers or priests that seem to be witnessing this scene of Calumny. The three oval openings of the columns, view a vast empty field with a horizon that seems to never end. The
contrast of the windows being open to field is a meaning of choice within the characters of the painting. A choice to the truth rather to fall under greed and malice of life is the Naturalism of the painting.
Botticelli’s influence in Classical and Naturalism he studied in Rome brings more of a realism and idealism to his painting. To name a few famous paintings such as, “Birth of Venus”, “Portrait of Youth”, and “Mars and Venus” reveal more of idealism verses realism aspects than the traditional Classical paintings. By using some Classical and Naturalism, Botticelli uses draped clothing, marble floor, and the arched columns that are recognized in most Classical art.
The colors used in “Calumny of Apelles” are of deep red, in which line the floor of the palace, and also matches King Midas’s robe. In the center of the painting is envy, she is draped with a lighter red color. The color red used in this painting might resemble the blood shed under the feet of the characters, and the lighter color of red on envy resembles passion, lust, or love. The dark colors are black, presented only on malice and penitence that seem to be equally balanced in the painting. Malice being closer to the King and penitence closer to the truth could only resemble that the color black represents death, evil, and the unjust. The surroundings is a mixer of gold and brown, in which gold resembles the lust for gold to King Midas, and the browns are of the natural world.
This allegory of Botticelli’s painting of “Calumny of Apelles” is brilliantly done with a simple description from a writer, Lucian who a viewed the original painting by Apelles. Botticelli brings forth such detail in a story-telling landscape of characters, that is a shame not to view the lost painting of Apelles to compare its originality. Although, Botticelli version is magnificent in presenting the work of a 4th century Greek artist Apelles, that the painting itself is worth talking about.
Basta, Chiara. Botticelli. Art Classics. Ed. Julie Di Filippo. Rizzoli Libri Illustrati.
RCS Libri Spa, Milano. 2004
Salvini, Roberto, All the Paintings of Botticelli. Translated from the Italian, John Grillenzoni. Part 3 and 4 (1485-1510). Hawthorn Books, Inc. Publishers.
New York. 1965.