Description & Technical information

‘Melancholic Sappho’ by Arthur Hill RBA (1841-1908).

The painting – which depicts the celebrated poet of Ancient Greece appealing to the Goddess Aphrodite, with the Parthenon on the Hill of the Muses above the city of Athens in the background – is signed by the artist, dated 1877, and further inscribed to the stretcher verso. It is presented in its original gold leaf Pre-Raphaelite frame.

Known as ‘The Tenth Muse’ Sappho of Lesbos was one of the greatest lyric poets of Greek antiquity famous for her love poetry and in particular ‘Ode to Aphrodite’ in which Sappho herself appeals to the Greek goddess to fly from Olympus in her chariot drawn by doves to advise her in affairs of the heart. It is this moment depicted in the current work. When the painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy it was hung with the following quote from Psalm 55; “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!”.

Date:  1877
Period:  1850-1900
Signature: Signed and dated.
Dimensions:  cm (50 x 34 x 4 inches)
Provenance: 1877: Royal Academy Exhibition, London (cat no. 154). Thence in private UK collection.

Exhibitions: 1877: Royal Academy Exhibition, London (cat no. 154).