11 Facts About Apelles


Apelles dated Apelles to the 112th Olympiad, possibly because he had produced a portrait of Alexander the Great.

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Apelles was a contemporary of Protogenes, whose reputation he advocated.

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Pliny recorded an anecdote that was making the rounds among Hellenistic connoisseurs of the first century CE: Apelles travelled to Protogenes' home in Rhodes to make the acquaintance of this painter he had heard so much about.

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When Protogenes returned, and the old woman explained what had taken place, he examined the line and pronounced that only Apelles could have done so perfect a piece of work; Protogenes then dipped a brush into another colour and drew a still finer line above the first one, and asked his servant to show this to the visitor should he return.

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Apelles is said to have been working on a painting of Aphrodite of Kos when he died, and the painting was left unfinished for no one could be found with skill enough to complete it.

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Hellenistic Rhodes Aphrodite Kos

Apelles was so unsuccessful that, in a rage, he gave up and threw the sponge he was using to clean his brushes with at the medium, and its mark produced the effect of the horse's foam.

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Apelles is said to have treated his rival with generosity, for he increased the value of his pictures by spreading a report that he meant to buy them and sell them as his own.

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Apelles allowed the superiority of some of his contemporaries in particular matters: according to Pliny he admired the dispositio of Melanthius, i e the way in which he spaced his figures, and the mensurae of Asclepiodorus, who must have been a great master of symmetry and proportion.

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Apelles probably used but a small variety of colours, and avoided elaborate perspective: simplicity of design, beauty of line and charm of expression were his chief merits.

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In fact the age of Alexander was one of notable idealism, and probably Apelles succeeded in a marked degree in imparting to his figures a beauty beyond nature.

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Pliny states that Apelles made a number of useful innovations to the art of painting, but his recipe for a black varnish, called by Pliny atramentum—which served both to preserve his paintings and to soften their colour, and created an effect that Pliny praises to no end—Apelles kept secret and was lost with his death.

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