Praxiteles Giving Phryne his Statue of Cupid
Angelica Kauffmann, Swiss, Praxiteles Giving Phryne his Statue of Cupid, 1794, Oil on canvas; 43.3 x 48.6 cm (17 1/16 x 19 1/8 inches), Museum Works of Art Fund 59.008
This scene depicts the Greek sculptor Praxiteles offering his favorite work, a statue of Cupid, as a gift to the courtesan Phryne. The subject is both tender and original, imagining the artist in a private dialogue with his beautiful mistress. Painted in Rome, it was one of four small paintings with themes of antiquity that were commissioned from Angelica Kauffmann by a British patron. The Swiss-born artist was a history painter whose talents in both music and the fine arts helped establish her at the center of Rome’s vibrant artistic community in the 1760s. In Italy, and later in London, she belonged to an international circle of painters committed to a neo-classical style whose figures reflected knowledge of ancient and Renaissance models and whose themes derived from ancient history.