Sandro Botticelli
Calummy of Apelles

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Sandro Botticelli, Calummy of Apelles



107 X 71 cm

Milan, Museo Paldi Pezzoli

The Calumny of Appelles

This painting was done later in Botticelli’s career. During this time period, Botticelli’s workshop was doing very well. On some of his larger commissioned work, Botticelli allowed his assistants to work on certain areas. Botticelli exclusively worked on commissions only for a select group of clients. The Calumny of Appelles is one of those works that Botticelli did himself. This painting takes the viewer into a grand hall with three arches and a raised throne at the end. There is much action and movement that involves many characters. As the viewer takes a close look into the painting, great detail is found on the walls and columns. The sculptures and painted reliefs are all showing episodes from classical mythology, history, literature biblical events and scenes from Boccaccio and Dante.

The action taking place is between the Ancient Greek painter Appelles and the painter Antiphilos. Antiphilos claimed that Appelles has conspired to overthrow the Egyptian King Ptolmey I. King Ptolmey is on the throne surrounded by the personifications of Ignorance and Suspicion. In front of the king is Envy dressed in black leading a woman who represents Calumnyand looks distrustful. Calumny is bringing forward Perfidy and Fraud who are doing Calmny’s hair to smooth the path for her false words. The old woman represents Remorse, and Truth is in the form of a naked Venus.

There are 65, more or less, themes and scenes played out among the columns and arches. Not all are identifiable. Some of the statues that can be identified are as follows: Old Testament King David, St. George, Saint Paul, Prince of the Apositles. Behind the king are Judith and two scenes from her life. Other episodes can be identified as episodes from Boccaccio’s Nastagio defli Onesti and the deeds of the Roman hero Mucius Scaevola. There are many other episodes from Boccacio’s writings along with Dante and other classical authors that can be picked out. Below the throne is an allegory of Pride, then a family of centaurs and the goddess Minerva.

The ancient Greek writer Lucian has passed down descriptions in ‘The Hall’ which seem to be what Botticelli based his painting on. Based on ‘The Hall’ much information can be derived as to the message of The Calumny of Appelles. The painting was probably done for a small but important study that would also contain books, sculptures and collectors’ items. This painting fit very well into this environment. Moral values were important to the people who used the study and those values were presented in this painting. Suspicion and fraud should be avoided; those in charge should not be arrogant or proud and those that judge should not be swayed by false or untrue testimony. These qualities inspired by the painting were well suited to those who use the study.





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