Maerten de Vos: The calumny of Apelles (16th century)


(Private Collection)

A painting by the Flemish artist Maerten de Vos (1532-1603). This painting is an allegory and supposedly is based upon a painting by the Greek artist Apelles of Kos (4th century C). According to a story, Apelles was falsely accused by a rival artist that he was taking part in a conspiracy against king Ptolemy IV Philopator of Egypt. The accusation almost resulted in the execution of Apelles but fortunately the truth came out and Apelles was released. As a result of the accusation, Apelles created a painting of an allegory of calumny. this painting did not survive but the Greek a satirist and rhetorician Lucian of Samosata gave a description of the painting in his Ekphrasis which did survive. Maerten de Vos bases his interpretation of the calumny of Apelles upon an engraving by Italian artist Giorgio Ghisi (1520-1582). On the right, sitting on a throne is king Midas with donkey-ears. Midas is surrounded by Ignorance and Suspicion. The king is pointing toward the approaching calumny, she is dragging the innocence by the hair, and who is encouraged by Envy, and assisted by Treason and Deceit. Behind the group is a woman in black, this is Repentance. She is looking toward Time who brings in Truth (with time comes repentance and the truth). It is not known who commissioned this painting but looking at the subject, it was probably meant for a court or some other public building. Painting from the 16th century.

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