), a very distinguished painter, of Byzantium.
He lived (if the statement of Pliny, as contained in all the editions, be correct) in the time of Julius Caesar, who purchased two of his pictures, the Ajax
for the immense sum of eighty Attic talents, and dedicated them in the temple of Venus Genitrix. (Plin. Nat. 7.38. s. 39
, 35.4. s. 9, 11. s. 40.30.)
In the last of these passages, Pliny defines the artist's age in the following very distinct terms : --" Timomachus Byzantius Caesaris Dictatoris actate
Ajacem et Medeam pinxit.
" But here an important and difficult question has been raised. In Cicero's well-known enumeration of the masterpieces of Grecian art, which were to be seen in various cities (in Verr.
4.60), he alludes to the Ajax
at Cyzicus, but without mentioning the painter's name. (Quid Cyzicenos [arbitramini merere velle], ut Ajacem, aut Medeam [amittant] ?
) From this passage a presumption is raised, that the two pictures should be referred to a period much earlier than the time of Caesar, namely to the best period of Grecian art, to which most of the other works, in connection with which they are mentioned, are known to have belonged : at all events, as the manner in which they are referred to by Cicero presupposes their being already celebrated throughout the Roman empire, it is not likely that they could have been painted during the life of Caesar, and it is of course impossible that they were painted during his dictatorship.
But then, the question comes, whether these were the paintings mentioned by Pliny, and, as will presently be seen. celebrated by other writers.
The first impulse of any reader would be to assume this. as a matter of course; and it would be strange indeed if, while two such pictures as the Ajax
celebrated by Cicero, existed at Cyzicus, two others on the same subjects should have been painted by Timomachus, and should have been admired as we know they were, and that the pictures of Ajax
should be simply mentioned by Pliny as well known, without any distinction being made between the two pairs of pictures.
It is true that, from one of the passages of Pliny above cited (35.4. s. 9), the inference has been drawn that, besides the Ajax
which Caesar dedicated in the temple of Venus, there was another pair of pictures brought to Rome, by Agrippa, who purchased them from the Cyzicenes at a great price, namely, an Ajax
and Venus ;
but the passage is extremely difficult to understand clearly; and, even taking the above explanation, any conclusion drawn from it would apply only to the Ajax,
and not to the Medea,
which was evidently the more celebrated of the two. On the whole, then, it seems most probable that the pictures at Cyzicus, mentioned by Cicero, were the very pictures of Timomachus, which were purchased by Julius Caesar; and therefore that the word actate
in Pliny must either be rejected, or interpreted with a considerable latitude.
In confirmation of this conclusion another passage is cited from Pliny himself (l.c.
§ 41), in which he enumerates, as examples of the last unfinished pictures of the greatest painters, which were more admired than even their finished works, the Medea
of Timomachus, in connection with the Iris
of Aristeides, the Tyndaridae
of Nicomachus, and the Venus
of Apelles; whence it has been argued that Timomachus was probably contemporary with the other great painters there mentioned, and moreover that it is incredible that Caesar should have given the large price above mentioned for two pictures of a living
artist, especially when one of them was unfinished. Still, any positive chronological conclusion from these arguments can only be received with much caution. They seem to prove that Timomachus flourished not later than the early part of the first century B. C., but they do not prove that he is to be carried back to the third century.
The associations of works and names, in the passages of Cicero and Pliny, have respect to the order of excellence and not to that of time; and it must be remembered that a great artist often obtains a reputation even above his merits during his life and soon after his death, and that fashion, as well as fame, will set a high pecuniary value on such an artist's works. On the other hand, a positive argument, to prove that Nicomachus lived later than the time of that flourishing period of the art which is marked by the name of Apelles, may be drawn from the absence of any mention of him by Pliny in his proper chronological order. which indicates the absence of his name from the works of the Greek authors whom Pliny followed, and that he was one of those recent artists who were only known to Pliny by their works which he had seen. Without attempting to arrive at any more precise conclusion with regard to the age of Timomachus, we proceed to state what is known of his works.
The two pictures already mentioned were the most celebrated of all his works, and the Medea
appears to have been esteemed his masterpiece.
It is referred to, in terms of the highest praise, in several passages of the ancient writers, from which we learn that it represented Medea meditating the murder of her children, but still hesitating between the impulses of revenge for her own wrongs and.of pity for her children.
A general notion of the composition is probably preserved in a painting on the same subject found at Pompeii (Mus. Borb.
vol. ii. p. 190), and the type of Medea is seen in a figure found at Herculaneum (Antiq. di Ercol.
1.13; Mus. Borb.
10.21), and on some gems. (Lippert, Supplem.
1.93 ; Panofka, Annal d. Inst.
i. p. 243; Müller, Archäol. d. Kunst,
§ 208, n. 2.)
A minute description of the emotions expressed in the artist's Medea
is given in the following epigrams from the Greek Anthology. (Anth. Plan.
4.135, 136, p. 317 ; Brunck, Anal.
vol. iii. p. 214, vol. ii. p. 174 ; Jacobs, Anth. Pal.
Append. vol. ii. p. 667.)
The first is anonymous : --
τέχνη Τιμομάχον στοργὴν καὶ ζῆλον ἔδειξε
Μηδείης, τέκνων εἰς μόρον ἑλκομένων :
τῇ μὲν γὰρ συνένευσεν ἐπὶ ξίφος, ᾗ δ᾽ ἀνανεύει
σώζειν καὶ κτείνειν βουλομένη τέκεα.
The other is ascribed to Antiphilus : --
τὰν ὀλοὰν Μήδειαν ὅτ᾽ ἔγραφε Τιμομάχου χείρ,
ζάλῳ καὶ τέκνοις ἀντιμεθελκομέναν,
μυρίον ἄρατο μόχθον, ἵν᾽ ἤθεα δισσὰ χαράξῃ,
ᾧ τὸ μὲν εἰς ὀργάν νεῦε, τὸ δ᾽ εἰς ἔλεον.
ἄμφω δ᾽ ἐπλήρωσεν ὅρα τύπον. ἐν γὰρ ἀπειλᾷ
δάκρυον, ἐν δ᾽ ἐλέῳ θυμός ἀναστρέφεται.
Ἀρκεῖ δ᾽ ἁ μέλλησις, ἔφα σοφός : αἷμα δὲ τέκνων
ἔπρεπε Μηδείῃ, κοὐ χερὶ Τιμομάχου.
There is a similar epigram by Ausonius (No. 129). From these descriptions it appears that the great art of Timomachus consisted in the expression of that conflict of emotions which precedes the perpetration of some dreadful act, and in exciting in the minds of the spectators the corresponding emotions of terror and pity, which are the end aimed at by all tragic exhibitions; and, at the same time, in avoiding the excess of horror, by representing, not the deed itself, but only the conception of it in the mind. Plutarch mentions the painting as an example of one of those works of art, in which unnatural deeds (πράξεις ἄτοποι
) are represented, and which, while we abhor the deed, we praise on account of the skill shown in representing it in a becoming manner (τὴν τέχνην
, εἰ μεμίμηται προσηκόντως τὸ ὑποκείμενον
, Plut. de Aud. Poet. 3,
There are also two other epigrams upon the picture in the Greek Anthology (Jacobs, l.c.
Nos. 137, 138), from the former of which we learn that it was painted in encaustic; and, from the connection in which Timomachus is mentioned by Pliny, it would seem that this was the case with all his works.
(2.) His Ajax
resembled his Medea
in the conflict of emotions which it expressed.
It represented the hero in his madness, meditating the act of suicide.
It is described by Philostratus (Vit. Apollon.
2.10), in an epigram in the Greek Anthology (Jacobs, l.c.
No. 83, p. 648), and by Ovid (Ov. Tr. 2.528
(3.) His other works are mentioned by Pliny in the following words : -- "Timomachi aeque laudantur Orestes, Iphigenia in Tauris, Lecythion
agilitatis exercitator, Cognatio nobilium, Palliati,
quos dicturos pinxit, alterum stantem. alterum sedentem ; praecipue tamen ars ei favisse in Gorgone
Plin. Nat. 35.11. s. 40.30