Sunday, February 15, 2009

Calumny and Innocence

On Saturday, Kathy and I visited the Blanton Art Museum, and I was particularly pleased to learn of this 16th century engraving by Giorgio Ghisi depicting a famous scene from ancient Greek art and literature - the Calumny of Apelles. According to the Museum's website:
Apelles was the most famous painter in ancient Greece. Maligned by an envious colleague, he devised an allegory of Calumny. In an essay on the theme, the Roman satirist Lucian gave the only description of the painting to survive. Its re-creation became a favorite challenge for Renaissance artists. Giorgio Ghisi's engraving is one of the best-known versions. Reproducing Luca Penni's design, it closely follows Lucian's description: Calumny, accompanied by Deceit and Envy, drags Innocence before a donkey-eared man, flanked by Ignorance and Suspicion. Penni's embellishments include the background motif of Time rescuing Truth.
What an excellent artistic allegory for the innocent accused!

MORE: I want to learn more about the Calumny of Apelles' ancient origins and its various artistic renditions over time. Here's a description of an earlier 16th Century version from the Italian artist Andrea Mantegna:
Sitting on a throne is the judge with large, ass's ears, extending his hand to Calumny (Slander). Behind him stand Suspicion on the left and Ignorance on the right who maliciously advise him. Calumny holds a torch in one hand to suggest her blazing fury, and with the other hand drags a young man by the hair. He stretches out his hands to heaven and asks the gods to witness his innocence. Envy, a thin pale man, leads Calumny, while two servants, Treachery and Deceit, adjust her hair and dress. The last two figures in the procession are Repentance, a mourning woman who wrings her hands, and finally Truth, pointing to heaven and with tears in her eyes.
In Botticelli's most famous rendition of the theme, Envy, Malice and Deceit were all women.


Anonymous said...

the Rev. here:

I have to confess, I had to look up "calumny" in the dictionary. For others who may not know and who perchance may see this post, it has to do with false charges intended to harm another. Sounds a lot like libel.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Send 'em to the dictionaries, is my motto! ;)