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Apelles Painting Campaspe

Apelles Painting Campaspe, c. 1720-30

Francesco Trevisani
Italian, 1656-1746
Oil on canvas
29-3/8 x 23-7/8 in. (74.6 x 60.6 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© The Norton Simon Foundation

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Pliny the Elder wrote that Campaspe was the favorite mistress of Alexander the Great, and that Apelles was his favorite painter. Alexander asked him to paint a full-length portrait of Campaspe nude. In so doing, Apelles fell in love with her. Seeing this, Alexander gave up his mistress to the painter. The idea behind Alexander’s gesture is that love inspired by beauty is most appreciated by the one who discerns it best. This story was embraced by painters to demonstrate that they were the best judges of beauty.

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