Zeuxis and Parrhasius


Zeuxis and Parrhasius

Zeuxis (Ζεύξις) (of Heraclea) and Parrhasius (Παρράσιος) (of Ephesus and later Athens) were painters who flourished during the 5th century BC. They are reported four hundred years later in the "Naturalis Historia" of Pliny the Elder to have staged a contest to determine which of the two was the greater artist. When Zeuxis unveiled his painting of grapes, they appeared so luscious and inviting that birds flew down from the sky to peck at them. Zeuxis then asked Parrhasius to pull aside the curtain from his painting, only for Parrhasius to reveal the curtain itself was a painting, and Zeuxis was forced to concede defeat. Zeuxis is rumoured to have said: 'I have deceived the birds, but Parrhasius has deceived Zeuxis.'

Zeuxis was born in Heraclea around 464 BC and was presumably the pupil of Apollodorus. Zeuxis often thought himself misunderstood by his public and Aristotle did not like him at all. He is said to have laughed himself to death after painting a funny old woman (supposedly the woman had ordered a painting of Aphrodite and demanded that she was used as his model). He was known to have painted an assembly of gods, Eros crowned with roses, Alcmène, Menelas, an athlete, Pan, Marsyas chained and an old woman. Zeuxis' most notable works included "Helen", "Zeus Enthroned", and "The Infant Hercules Strangling the Serpent". Most of his works were taken to Rome and to Byzance but disappeared during the time of Pausanias. None have survived to this day.

Jacques Lacan

In a 1964 seminar, the psychoanalyst and theorist Jacques Lacan observed that the myth of the two painters reveals an interesting aspect of human cognition. While animals are attracted to superficial appearances, humans are enticed by the idea of that which is hidden.

ee also

*Still life
*Trompe l'oeil


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