Ferdinand Bol: Gaius Fabricius Luscinus and Pyrrhus (1656)

(Royal Palace, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

This painting shows a tale regarding the Roman consul Gaius Fabricius Luscinus. From 280–275 BC the Roman Republic was at war with Pyrrhus of Epirus, King of Epirus  (he is the man with crowned turban). After the Battle of Heraclea (July 280 BC), the Roman consul Gaius Fabricius Luscinus (he man with the plumed helmet on the left) negotiated peace terms with Pyrrhus and perhaps the ransom and exchange of prisoners. According to Plutarch, Pyrrhus tried to bride the Roman consul by offering him gold. when that didn’t work, Pyrrhus showed an elephant to the Roman to frighten the Romans. As the Romans had never seen such a creature, there was much consternation among the Roman delegation, as we can see on the foreground. Fabricius himself wasn't impressed and said to Pyrrhus that 'neither gold or monsters would change his mind'. Pyrrhus was impressed by the inability to bribe Fabricius, and released the Roman prisoners without a ransom. This painting was produced for the new city hall in Amsterdam (now the Royal Palace) for the mayor's room - to remind the new mayors of the city not to be corrupt. Notice also the person in the right corner with the red mantle. This is called a 'rugfiguur'. The purpose of the figure is to direct the viewer’s gaze into the painting, something that Ferdinand Bol adopted from Rembrandt, under whom he studied. This painting is from 1656.

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