(b. 1445, Firenze, d. 1510, Firenze)

Calumny of Apelles

Tempera on panel, 62 x 91 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Botticelli's theme was drawn from a famous painting by the Greek artist Apelles, described in classical sources. It was a well-known work in the 15th century. Lucian's description of this lost work by the classical artist had been widely translated. Apelles produced his painting because he was unjustly slandered by a jealous artistic rival, Antiphilos, who accused him in front of the gullible king of Egypt, Ptolemy, of being an accomplice in a conspiracy. After Apelles had been proven to be innocent, he dealt with his rage and desire for revenge by painting this picture.

In his painting, Botticelli kept the scenic structure of the composition of the figures to Lucian's description, and created a lavishly decorated architectural backdrop for them.

An innocent man is dragged before the kings throne by the personifications of Calumny, Malice, Fraud and Envy. They are followed to one side by Remorse as an old woman, turning to face the naked Truth, who is pointing towards heaven. The nakedness of Truth places her in a relationship with the innocent youth, whose folded hands are also an appeal to a higher power.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.