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Timarete (fl. 3rd c. BCE)

Timarete (fl. 3rd c. bce)

Ancient Greek painter who painted a portrait of the goddess Artemis at Ephesus. Name variations: Timareta; Thamaris; Thamar. Pronunciation: teem-aret-AY. Probably born after the 90th Olympiad (420–417 bce), perhaps in Syracuse in the 3rd century bce; probably daughter of the artist Micon.

Timarete is the first woman painter in Pliny the Elder's list, which is given in reverse alphabetical order. His notice of her is limited to one sentence: "Timarete, daughter of Micon painted a very archaic panel-portrait of Diana at Ephesus." From elsewhere in the chapter (35.59) we know that Micon was also a painter, and thus we can group Timarete with two other women on the list, Aristarete and Irene , as daughters with famous artist fathers. It is perhaps curious to note, however, that Pliny does not explicitly say that Timarete learned to paint from her father, as he does of the other two.

If it is true that Irene painted a portrait of Persephone for Eleusis, then another similitude links her with Timarete. Diana, the Greek Artemis, was the city patron and chief attraction for pilgrims to Ephesus, and it is not inconceivable that a portrait of her, especially described in the terms that Pliny uses, was connected to aspects of the goddess' cult there. The fact that Pliny describes the portrait as "extremely archaic" (antiquissimae), however, also poses something of a problem for her dating. In 35.59, Pliny tells us that her father Micon was not identical with the famous artist of the same name who painted in Athens during the 5th century bce. Because Timarete's father was therefore known as Micon the Younger (minor), Pliny's reference to archaism must refer to the style of the work rather than its actual age. The reasons for this stylistic choice are unknown, and we do not know if it was characteristic of Timarete's work in general, or only of this particular portrait. Like Irene and Iaia , Timarete (whom he calls "Thamaris") captured the attention of Boccaccio in his De Mulieribus Claris (On Famous Women). "Indeed, her work is worthy of much praise," he said. (See also Aristarete.)

sources and suggested reading:

Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildener Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart. Edited by Ulrich Thieme and Felix Becker. S.v. "Timarete." Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 1908–50.

Boccaccio, Giovanni. Tutte le Opere. Edited by Vittorio Zaccaria. Vol. 10: De Mulieribus Claris. 2nd ed. Verona: Arnoldo Mondadori, 1970, pp. 226–229.

Enciclopedia dell'Arte Antica Classica e Orientiale. S.v. "Timarete." Rome: Instituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1958–66.

Peter H. O'Brien , Instructor in English and Classics, Boston University Academy, Boston, Massachusetts

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