Mattia Preti: General Belisarius receiving alms (1660-1665)

(Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

This painting depicts a legend regarding Belisarius. Belisarius (A.D. 500-565) was a general of the Byzantine Empire during emperor Justinian. Belisarius managed to defeated the Vandals and Ostrogoths and recapture North Africa and Italy. According to a story from the Middle Ages, Justinian ordered to have Belisarius' eyes put out and have him reduced to the status of a beggar. He was condemned to asking passers-by to "give an obolus to Belisarius" (date obolum Belisario). The story itself is not true but several paintings depict the tale. The Neapolitan artist Mattia Preti shows the story in a Caravaggian style. This painting is from 1660-1665.