a Greek painter, who probably lived about or soon after the time of Alexander the Great, since Pliny mentions him immediately after the great painters of that age, but as an artist of a totally different style.
He devoted himself entirely to the production of small pictures of low and mean subjects; "tonstrinas sulrinasque pinxit et asellos et obsonia et similia,"
says Pliny; where we take the first two words to mean, not that he decorated the walls of the barbers' and shoemakers' shops with his pictures, but that he made pictures of them.
It may also be taken for granted that these were treated in a quaint, or even a grotesque manner. His paintings were a source of great delight (consmmatae voluptatis
), and commanded higher prices than the greatest works of many painters. (Plin. Nat. 35.10. s. 37
The ancients gave a name to this kind of painting, respecting the true form of which there is a difference of opinion. Pliny says that Pyreicus was called, on account of the subjects of his pictures, Rhyparographos
(the reading of all the MSS.), instead of which Salmasius proposed to read Rhopographos,
as better suited to the sense, and Welcker adopts the correction (ad Philostr.
396), while Sillig and others are satisfied with the former reading.
The difference is hardly important enough to be discussed here. (See Sillig, Cat. Artif s. v.;
Döderlein, Lat. Synon.
vol. ii. p. 38; and the Greek Lexicons, s. vv.
There is a line of Propertius (3.9. 12
. s. 7. 12, Burmann) in which Burmann reads, on the authority of two MSS.,--
parva vindicat arte locum,
where the great majority of the MSS. have Parrhasius,
a reading which would easily be inserted by a transcriber ignorant of the less known name of Pyreicus.
In connection with Pyreicus the phrase parac arte
has a clear meaning; whereas it is difficult to explain it as referring to Parrhasius It is, however, uncertain which is right. Hertzberg keeps to the common reading. (See Sillig, Cat. Art. s. v.;
and Hertzberg, Comment. ad loc.