People - Ancient Greece: Zeuxis and Parrhasius
Ancient Greek painter who flourished during the 5th
Zeuxis in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)
（Ζεῦξις). A celebrated Greek painter of the Ionic School, a contemporary of Parrhasius; he was a native of Heraclea in South Italy, and lived till about B.C. 400 at different places in Greece, at last, as it appears, settling in Ephesus. According to the accounts of his works which have been preserved, in contrast to the great mural painter, Polygnotus, he especially devoted himself to painting on panels. He endeavoured above all things to make his subjects attractive by investing them with the charm of novelty and grace. He also has the merit of having further improved the distribution of light and shade, introduced by his elder contemporaries. Especially celebrated was his picture of Helen, painted for the temple of Heré on the Lacinian promontory (De Invent. ii. 1, 1). He aimed at the highest degree of illusion. As is well known, he is said to have painted grapes so naturally that the birds flew to peck at them (Pliny , Pliny H. N. xxxv. 61-66). See Parrhasius; Pictura.
Zeuxis in Wikipedia
Zeuxis (Greek: Ζεῦξις) (of Heraclea) was a painter who flourished during the 5th century BC.
Life and work
Zeuxis was born in Heraclea around 464 BC and was presumably the pupil of Apollodorus. Zeuxis often thought himself misunderstood by his public and Aristotle did not like him at all. He is said to have laughed himself to death after painting a funny old woman (supposedly the woman had ordered a painting of Aphrodite and demanded that she be used as his model). He was known to have painted an assembly of gods, Eros crowned with roses, Alcmene, Menelaus, an athlete, Pan, Marsyas chained and an old woman. Zeuxis' most notable works included Helen, Zeus Enthroned, and The Infant Hercules Strangling the Serpents. The Helen is the subject of a myth that arose in the 4th century BC that Zeuxis could find no single model beautiful enough on which to base his image of the most beautiful woman in the world, and so selected the best features from five models to create a composite image of ideal beauty. Archelaus I of Macedon employed Zeuxis to decorate the palace of his new capital Pella and the king himself was presented with a picture of Pan by Zeuxis.
Most of his works were taken to Rome and to Byzantium but disappeared during the time of Pausanias. None have survived to this day.
Contest with Parrhasius
Zeuxis and his contemporary Parrhasius (of Ephesus and later Athens) are reported in the Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder to have staged a contest to determine which of the two was the greater artist. When Zeuxis unveiled his painting of grapes, they appeared so luscious and inviting that birds flew down from the sky to peck at them. Zeuxis then asked Parrhasius to pull aside the curtain from his painting, only for Parrhasius to reveal the curtain itself was a painting, and Zeuxis was forced to concede defeat. Zeuxis is rumoured to have said: 'I have deceived the birds, but Parrhasius has deceived Zeuxis.'
In a 1964 seminar, the psychoanalyst and theorist Jacques Lacan observed that the myth of the two painters reveals an interesting aspect of human cognition. While animals are attracted to superficial appearances, humans are enticed by the idea of that which is hidden.
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