Circa 220-130 b.c.e.
Prestige. Pacuvius was both a stage poet and a visual artist of South Italian birth and was nephew and pupil to the poet Ennius. Pliny tells that, next to the work of Fabius Pictor, the paintings by Pacuvius in the temple of Hercules in the Forum Boarium were the most renowned of their day. He wrote at least thirteen tragedies based on Greek myths and was heavily indebted to Greek playwrights such as Sophocles and Euripides. References to satires and a comedy by him are known. He seems to have had relations with L. Aemilius Paullus, consul in 182 B.C.E. and victor over the Greeks at Pydna in 168, which led to the building of his monument in Delphi (168-167). Pacuvius’s work Paulus seems to have dealt with an episode in the life of that figure. Pacuvius’s dramas were admired especially in the first century B.C.E. and, according to Pliny (N.H. 35.19), he seems to have made painting a more distinguished occupation through “the glory of the stage.” This statement could mean that he painted scenes for his own dramas and, as a result, made his artworks more famous, or that his prestige as a poet increased that of his paintings and painting in general—or both. Apparently after his time, however, painting was not seen as a respectable occupation for the elite.
Jacob Isager, Pliny on Art and Society (London: Routledge, 1991).
K. Jex-Blake and Eugenie S. Sellers, eds., The Elder Pliny’s Chapters on the History of Art (Chicago: Argonaut, 1968).
Jerome J. Pollitt, The Art of Rome c.753 B.C-337 A.D. Sources and Documents (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966).