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Zeuxis

ZEUXIS, a Greek painter, who flourished about 420-390 B.C., and described himself as a native of Heraclea, meaning probably the town on the Black Sea. He was, according to one 1 Antiphon vi. p. 789 ; Pausan. i. 3, 5 : cf. Corp. Inscr. Attic iii. 683.

1 Farnell, op. ctt. vol. i. p. 162.

' Amer. Journ. Archaeol., 1905, p. 302.

4 C. I. A. 3, 7. Head, Hist. Num. p. 569.

5 Herod, ix. 7, 4; Find. Nem. v. 15 (Schol.). Simonides, Frag. 140 (Bergk), Strab. 412.

7 There was a minor oracle of Zeus at Olympia. See ORACLE. ' Pausan. v. 24, 9. Farnell, op. cit. vol. i. pp. 64-69.

account, a pupil of Damophilus of Himera in Sicily, the other statement being that he was a pupil of Neseus of Thasos. Afterwards he appears to have resided in Ephesus. His known works are 1. Zeus surrounded by Deities.

2. Eros crowned with Roses.

3. Marsyas bound.

4. Pan.

5. Centatir family.

6. Boreas or Triton.

7. Infant Heracles strangling the serpents in presence of his parents, Alcmena and Amphitryon.

8. Alcmena, possibly another name for 7.

9. Helena at Croton. 10. Penelope.

n. Menelaus.

12. Athlete.

13. An old Woman.

14. Boy with grapes.

15. Grapes.

16. Monochromes.

17. Plastic works in clay.

In ancient records we are told that Zeuxis, following the initiative of Apollodorus; had introduced into the art of painting a method of representing his figures in light and shadow, as opposed to the older method of outline, with large flat masses of colour for draperies, and other details, such as had been practised by Polygnotus and others of the great fresco painters. The new method led to smaller compositions, and often to pictures consisting of only a single figure, on which it was more easy for the painter to demonstrate the combined effect of the various means by which he obtained perfect roundness of form. The effect would appear strongly realistic, as compared with the older method, and to this was probably due the origin of such stories as the contest in which Zeuxis painted a bunch of grapes so like reality that birds flew towards it, while Parrhasius painted a curtain which even Zeuxis mistook for real. It is perhaps a variation of this story when we are told (Pliny) that Zeuxis also painted a boy holding grapes towards which birds flew, the artist remarking that if the boy had been as well painted as the grapes the birds would have kept at a distance. But, if the method of Zeuxis led him to real roundness of form, to natural colouring, and to pictures consisting of single figures or nearly so, it was likely to lead him also to search for striking attitudes or motives, which by the obviousness of their meaning should emulate the plain intelligibility of the larger compositions of older times. Lucian, in his Zeuxis, speaks of him as carrying this search to a novel and strange degree, as illustrated in the group of a female Centaur with her young. When the picture was exhibited, the spectators admired its novelty and overlooked the skill of the painter, to the vexation of Zeuxis. The pictures of Heracles strangling the serpents to the astonishment of his father and mother (7), Penelope (10), and Menelaus Weeping (n) are quoted as instances in which strong motives naturally presented themselves to him. But, in spite of the tendency towards realism inherent in the new method of Zeuxis, he is said to have retained the ideality which had characterized his predecessors. Of all his known works it would be expected that this quality would have appeared best in his famous picture of Helena, for this reason, that we cannot conceive any striking or effective incident for him in her career. In addition to this, however, Quintilian states (Inst. Oral. xii. 10, 4) that in respect of robustness of types Zeuxis had followed Homer, while there is the fact that he had inscribed two verses of the Iliad (iii 156 seq.) under his figure of Helena. As models for the picture he was allowed the presence of five of the most beautiful maidens of Croton at his own request, in order that he might be able to " transfer the truth of life to a mute image." Cicero (De Invent, ii. i, i) assumed that Zeuxis had found distributed among these five the various elements that went to make up a figure of ideal beauty. It should not, however, be understood that the painter had made up his figure by the process or combining the good points of various models, but rather that he found among those models the points that answered to the ideal Helena in his own mind, and that he merely required the models to guide and correct himself by during the process of transferring his ideal to form and colour. This picture also is said to have been exhibited publicly, with the result that Zeuxis made much profit out of it. By this and other means, we are told, he became so rich as rather to give away his pictures than to sell them. He presented his Alcmena to the Agrigentines, his Pan to King Archelaus of Macedonia, whose palace he is also said to have decorated with paintings. According to Pliny (N.H. xxxv. 62), he made an ostentatious display of his wealth at Olympia in having his name woven in letters of gold on his dress. Under his picture of an athlete (12) he wrote that " It is easier to revile than to rival " (ptapiiaeTai TIS na\\oi>fj funrjatTai). A contemporary, Isocrates (De Permut. 2), remarks that no one would say that Zeuxis and Parrhasius had the same profession as those persons who paint pinakia, or tablets of terra-cotta. We possess many examples of the vasepainting of the period circa 400 B.C., and it is noticeable on them that there is great freedom and facility in drawing the human form, besides great carelessness. In the absence of fresco paintings of that date we have only these vases to fall back upon. Yet, with their limited resources of colour and perspective, they in a measure show the influence of Zeuxis, while, as would be expected, they retain perhaps more of the simplicity of older times.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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