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Casa Vasari in Florence

Zeuxis and the Beautiful Maidens

In the centre of the wall opposite to the chimney is the story of the Greek painter Zeuxis of Heraclea and the beautiful maidens, which was told by Pliny in chapter 35 of his “Naturalis historiae”: Zeuxis was commissioned by the residents of Agrigento to create a female portrait for their temple honouring Juno. As a result, the painter chose five of the most beautiful girls in the city, who were to model for him together, so that he could merge the most beautiful feature of each one into a single perfect portrait. This story, which is intended to illustrate the superiority of art over nature, deals with the much discussed question since ancient times of the relationship between art and nature. In nature, Vasari saw the teacher of art, which should not simply imitate nature, but try to surpass it. In the fresco, he selected this concept as a central theme using the comparison of two sequences from the tale: On the right side, the maidens are being led to the artist’s studio. Their route takes them past the many-breasted herm of Diana of Ephesus, who was honoured in the ancient world as the goddess of nature. On the left side, Zeuxis stands before the easel in his studio and merges the examples from nature into a perfect artistic creation. The “disegno”, which means in Vasari’s own words “the imitation of the most beautiful elements of nature”, acts as a mediator between the two concepts depicted in the scenes. It is represented by a figure of the statue of a naked youth.


Overall view, state after partial cleaning of the paint surface

Detail: The artist’s studio, state after partial cleaning of the paint surface

Detail: The artist in his studio, side-lit photograph to document the painting technique and the state of preservation

Detail: Model, state after cleaning of the paint surface

Detail: Model, state after partial cleaning of the paint surface

Detail: Model, state after partial cleaning of the paint surface

Detail: Painter and model, state after partial cleaning of the paint surface

Detail: The maidens of Agrigento are led to the artist’s studio, state after partial cleaning of the paint surface

Detail: The maidens of Agrigento are led to the artist’s studio, side-lit photograph to document the painting technique and the state of preservation

Detail: The maidens of Agrigento are led to the artist’s studio, state after partial cleaning of the paint surface

Details: Diana of Ephesus, state before restoration

Detail: Female torch bearer, state after partial cleaning of the paint surface

Detail: Two maidens, state after cleaning of the paint surface

Detail: Maiden and old woman, state before restoration

Detail: The “disegno” in the form of a statue of a youth, side-lit photograph to document the painting technique and the state of preservation




© KHI in Florence | 26.09.2020 09:47:38