1902 Encyclopedia > Apelles


APELLES, the most celebrated of ancient Greek painters. The date assigned to him by Pliny (Nat. Hist., xxxv. 79) is 332 B.C, and with this agrees the fact of his having been the court painter of Alexander the Great, who it was said would allow no one else to paint his portrait, though, in point of fact, portraits of him by other artists are known (Pliny, vii. 93 and 125 ; Horace, Epist., ii. 1, 239; Cicero, Ad Fam., v. 12, 13). Apeiles had worked before then for Philip, the father of Alexander, and with a career of nearly half a century, was at work after in the time of the first successors to Alexander's empire. He was born at Colophon, where it appears his father Pytheas, also a painter, resided. His first instructor was a certain Ephorus, of Ephesus, which was then the centre of the Asia Minor school of painting; the rival school being that of Sicyon in Greece proper, whither Apeiles next proceeded, apparently to undergo the stricter discipline in drawing for which that school was renowned, and perhaps also, as is said (Plutarch, Arat., 13), to win a share of the good fortune and fame of its leaders. He was here in the neighbourhood of Corinth, and it was probably then that he was taken by the beauty of the young Lais, on seeing her drawing water at the fountain of Peirene. Another incident, that of his having seen the notorious Phryne bathing at Eleusis, and from this conceived the design of his picture of Aphrodite Anadyomene, would also fall about this time, for the two reasons that Phryne's celebrity occurred in the period before Alexander, and that Apeiles is not known to have made a second stay in that district of Greece. From Sicyon he went to the Macedonian court, and was there employed until Alexander departed on his expedition into Asia, on which the painter accompanied him as far as Ephesus, where he settled. Of the intimacy between him and his royal patron there are a number of stories, which, however, from the variety in the telling, may be without foundation in fact. According to Pliny (xxxv. 85), Alex-ander having betrayed ignorance by some remark about painting, was told by Apeiles to be silent, lest the boys who were rubbing down colours in the studio might laugh at him. But the version of the same story given by Plutarch (Be Adul., 15) has, in the place of Alexander, the Megabyzos, or priest of Diana at Ephesus ; while in iElian (Var. Hist., iL 2) the story is told of Zeuxis, not of Apeiles. Again, iElian (Var. Hist, ii 3) relates, that while Alexander was inspecting a painting of a horse by Apeiles, a horse neighed towards the picture, upon which the painter remarked that the horse knew more of art than the king. But Pliny (xxx. 95) instances the neighing of a horse, only as having decided a competition between Apeiles and some other painter. Still, so far as the painter's readiness of rebuke is concerned, these stories are confirmed by other incidents, as when he told an artist, who boasted of his speed in work, that the wonder was why he could not produce more of such stuff in the same time; or, when having once accepted correction from a shoemaker about a wrongly painted boot in one of his pictures, he declined further criticism from him, with the observation which has since become a proverb, Ne supra crepidam sutor judicaret (Pliny, xxxv. 84). Of an opposite kind were his relations with Protogenes, the Rhodian painter, whose abilities he readily recognised, and whom he brought into notice by spreading a report that he intended to purchase his friend's pictures, and sell them as his own. Finding Protogenes not at home on one of his visits, Apeiles, instead of leaving his name, drew with a brush an exceedingly fine line on a prepared tablet. Protogenes knowing the hand, and accepting the challenge, drew within the line a still finer one in another colour. But Apeiles returning, divided the line a third time, and was confessed the victor. Though Ephesus continued to be his home, Apeiles worked also elsewhere, as in Smyrna, Samos, and Rhodes, but princi- pally in Cos, where he received the rights of a burgess, and where probably he died. For an account of his works and style, see ARCHEOLOGY (CLASSICAL). (A. s. M.)

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