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Parrhasius

Parrhasius

Flourished Fifth Century b.c.e.

Painter

Sources

Animation and Emotidon. Parrhasius was more famous for his meticulous outline drawing, rather than use of shade and color. Pliny says he was the first to give symmetry to painting and animation to faces. He painted an image of the Athenian people and was able to endow them with palpable emotional states. He was noted for depicting strong emotion in his rendering of suffering heroes such as Philoctetes, Telephus, and the Feigned Madness of Odysseus. For his painting of Prometheus in chains he is said to have tortured an old slave to death and used him as a model. One ancient account tells of a conversation between Parrhasius and Socrates where the philosopher points out the ability of painting to render not only physical appearances, but emotional and psychological states of the subject. Like many practicing artists, Parrhasius himself wrote on painting, although the work is lost. Accounts that he was arrogant (wearing a golden crown and purple robes like a rhapsode, a professional reciter of epic poems, or sophist) seem confirmed in his boastful poems about his own prowess, similar to those of his great rival, Zeuxis. He seems to have been a self-professed dandy and another of his competitors claimed that his depiction of Theseus made the hero look like he had been fed on roses instead of meat. His work was important and influential, providing models for later artists in the Roman period.

Sources

Franciscus Junius, The Literature of Classical Art, 2 volumes, edited and translated by Keith Aldrich, Philipp Fehl, and Raina Fehl (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).

J. J. Pollitt, The Art of Ancient Greece: Sources and Documents (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

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