Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema was born in the Netherlands in 1936. Even though he was Dutch, he is more renowned for the work he produced with the Royal Academy in London. A contemporary of Lord Leighton and Godward, his realistic paintings often depict scenes from the Ancient Greco-Roman world. He was also famous for being one of the best painters of marble in the world. This earned him the nickname of the “Most Marbellous Painter!”. He is a favourite of mine, not only for his technique, but also because of his knowledge of the classical world. A very detailed bibliography of the artists can be found on the Art Renewal Center’s website – Bibliography of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema.
I am particularly fond of this painting of Sappho and Alcaeus. I think this is one of the only representations of her that shows her with her daughter, Cleis.
In this painting, Alma-Tadema depicts the morning after the arrival of the maenads. According to Plutarch, a group of ecstatic maenads, the female devotees of Dionysus, arrive in town and collapse from exhaustion. These maenads were from another town that was at war with Amphissa. When the women of Amphissa found the other women asleep scattered in the market-place, they worried that they men might molest them. They formed a circle around the maenads and held vigil through late night and morning until their guests woke and safely escorted them out of their territory.
If you happen to be in the UK, Leighton House will be holding an exhibition of Sir Alma-Tadema’s work.