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Lawrence Alma-Tadema

A Sculpture Gallery in Rome at the Time of Augustus


Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Dronrijp, Netherlands, 1836 – Wiesbaden, Germany, 1912


A Sculpture Gallery in Rome at the Time of Augustus




Oil on panel


61.5 x 46.9 cm


Purchase, Horsley and Annie Townsend Bequest, inv. 1980.2


Western Art

Familiar with his enthusiasm for archaeological accuracy, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s colleagues defied him to depict an art gallery in antiquity. In the Sculpture Gallery, rich Imperial Roman art lovers are examining a bronze of the poet and dramatist Sophocles, while, in a double reading, the viewer who knows antiquity will also recognize celebrated ancient sculptures grouped together in the same place by sheer force of the painter’s will: from left to right, the Endymion Sarcophagus, the Laocoon, Penelope, an ex-Agrippina and Posidippus. Alma-Tadema took a keen interest in Greco-Roman art: every detail of furnishing and architectural setting derives from specific historical sources in this re-creation of the past, so in keeping with the spirit of the nineteenth century. The artist also portrays, not without a touch of humour, the group of friends who lost face, and himself, with the red beard. The painting’s success at the Salon in Antwerp prompted the artist to then reiterate the theme in ten variations.

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