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paintings and art-collection blog

Saturday, April 13, 2013

THEMED PAINTINGS - Phryne


Mother of Latin games and Greek delights,
Lesbos, where kisses, languishing or joyous,
Burning as the sun's light, cool as melons,
Adorn the nights and the glorious days;
Mother of Latin games and Greek delights,
Lesbos, where the kisses are like cascades 
That throw themselves boldly into bottomless chasms 
And flow, sobbing and gurgling intermittently, 
Stormy and secret, teeming and profound; 
Lesbos, where the kisses are like cascades!
Lesbos, where courtesans feel drawn toward each other,
Where for every sigh there is an answering sigh,
The stars admire you as much as Paphos,
And Venus may rightly be jealous of Sappho!
Lesbos, where courtesans feel drawn toward each other....
Charles Baudelaire

Phryne's real name was Mnesarete, but owing to her yellowish complexion she was called Phryne
This was a nickname frequently given to other courtesans and prostitutes as well. She was born as the daughter of Epicles at Thespiae in Boeotia, but lived in Athens. The exact dates of her birth and death are unknown, but she was likely born about 371 BC. In that year Thebes razed Thespiae not long after the battle of Leuctra and expelled its inhabitants.
A copy of the Aphrodite of Knidos. Phryne is said to be the model of the original.
Athenaeus provides many anecdotes about Phryne.He praises her beauty, writing that on the occasion of the festivals of the Eleusinia and Poseidonia she undressed, let down her hair and stepped naked into the sea in the sight of the people. This would have inspired the painter Apelles to create his famous picture of Aphrodite Anadyomene. Supposedly the sculptor Praxiteles, who was also her lover, used her as the model for the statue of the Aphrodite of Knidos.
This mural from Pompeii is based on Anadyomene Venus, a lost painting by Apelles.
Atheneaus alleges she was so rich that she offered to fund the rebuilding of the walls of Thebes, which had been destroyed by Alexander the Great in 336 BC, on the condition that the words "Destroyed by Alexander, restored by Phryne the courtesan" be inscribed upon them.
Jose Frappa - Phryne
The most well known event in Phryne's life is her trial, which has been depicted often by artists. Atheneaus writes that she was prosecuted for a capital charge and defended by the orator Hypereides, who was one of her lovers.The speech for the prosecution was written by Anaximenes of Lampsacus according to Diodorus Periegetes. When it seemed as if the verdict would be unfavourable, Hypereides removed Phryne's robe and bared her breasts before the judges to arouse their pity. Her beauty instilled the judges with a superstitious fear, who could not bring themselves to condemn "a prophetess and priestess of Aphrodite" to death. They decided to acquit her out of pity.
However, Atheneaus also provides a different account of the trial given in the Ephesia of Posidippus of Cassandreia. He simply describes Phryne as clasping the hand of each juror, pleading for her life with tears, without her disrobing being mentioned.
Phryne at the Poseidonia in Eleusis by Henryk Siemiradzki, c.1889. Phryne is shown naked, preparing to step into the sea.
Due to her beauty, she also inspired the much later painting by artist Jean-Leon Gerome - Phryne before the Areopagus
As is not uncommon in the biographical tradition, later biographers failed to notice that earlier biographers did not give an accurate representation of events.  Also, it was accepted at the time that women were especially capable of evoking the sympathy of the judges, mothers and children could be brought to courts for such purposes. The baring of breasts was not restricted or typical for prostitutes or courtesans, and could be used to arouse compassion.
Phryne by Gustave Clarence Rodolphe Boulanger
Joseph Turner - Phryne visits the public bath Giclee


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