previous next


Ἀπελλῆς). The most celebrated of Grecian painters, born, most probably, at Colophon in Ionia, though some ancient writers call him a Coan and others an Ephesian. He was the contemporary of Alexander the Great (B.C. 336-323), who entertained so high an opinion of him that he was the only person whom Alexander would permit to paint his portrait. We are not told when or where he died. Throughout his life Apelles laboured to improve himself, especially in drawing, which he never spent a day without practising. Hence the proverb, Nulla dies sine linea (τήμερον οὐδεμίαν γραμμὴν ἤγαγον). Of his portraits, the most celebrated was that of Alexander wielding a thunderbolt; but the most admired of all his pictures was the “Aphrodité Anadyomené,” or Aphrodité rising out of the sea. The goddess was wringing her hair, and the falling drops of water formed a transparent silver veil around her form. The original was Campaspé, a mistress of Alexander. For the painting of Alexander a sum of twenty talents (about $21,600) was paid, and the painting itself was hung in the temple of Diana of Ephesus. He painted also a horse; and, finding that his rivals in the art, who contested the palm with him on this occasion, were about to prevail through unfair means, he caused his own piece and those of the rest to be shown to some horses, and these animals, fairer critics in this case than men had proved to be, neighed at his painting alone. Apelles used to say of his contemporaries that they possessed, as artists, all the requisite qualities except one—namely, grace, and that this was his alone. On one occasion, when contemplating a picture by Protogenes, a work of immense labour, and in which exactness of detail had been carried to excess, he remarked, “Protogenes equals or surpasses me in all things but one—the knowing when to remove his hand from a painting.” Apelles was also, as is supposed, the inventor of what artists call glazing. Such, at least, was the opinion of Sir Joshua Reynolds and others. The ingredients probably employed by him for this purpose are given by Jahn, in his Malerei der Alten, p. 150. Apelles was accustomed, when he had completed any one of his pieces, to expose it to the view of passengers, and to hide himself behind it in order to hear the remarks of the spectators. On one of these occasions a shoemaker censured the painter for having given one of the slippers of a figure a less number of ties by one than it ought to have had. The next day the shoemaker, emboldened by the success of his previous criticism, began to find fault with a leg, when Apelles indignantly put forth his head, and desired him to confine his decisions to the slipper, “ne supra crepidam iudicaret.” Hence arose another common saying, Ne sutor ultra crepidam (Pliny , Pliny H. N. xxxv. 10).

hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (1):
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 35.10
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: