William Wetmore Story.

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have thought, could one gifted with prophecy have
told him the prices that his pictures now com-
mand? There is, for instance, his great altar-piece,
— stored, I believe, in one of the lower rooms of
the British Museum, — for which <£40,000 is now
asked. What would he have thought of that ?

B, I suppose he would have thought 40,000
pence a fair price then. But, after all, large as
the price seems, is it too large? The picture is


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very fine ; and if a large Raffaelle for a gallery be
wanted, where can another be found? It is not
like buying a picture by Millais, or Meissonnier,
or Fortuny. If you don't like one, you can get
another. You cannot go to RaffaeUe, and give
him a commission ; nor can you find similar pic-
tures by him for sale in other places. The price
is one of affection. Such works have no market
price. If you give <£7,000 for a small Meisson-
nier, is <£40,000 too much for a great Eaffaelle ?
It depends upon how much you want it, and
whether you can afford such a luxury.

M. The old Greeks or Romans would not have
hesitated for a moment. They are the only per-
sons who ever really valued art : a distinguished
artist was sure with them to be a millionaire.

B. You surprise me. Did they pay such large
prices for works of art ?

M, Large as we think the prices we now pay,
they are simply shabby and mean when compared
with what the old Greeks paid to their great ar-
tists. The prices paid in Italy, at its prime of art,
bore about the same relation to ours, at the present
day, that ours bear to those of Greece and Rome.

B, It seems to me impossible. Give me some
instances if you can.

M. Wait a moment. I have a little list of
some of them, which, from time to time, I have
noted down in my reading, and I will find it, and
read it to you. It was a noble thing to be an ar-
tist in those days. One did not dine in the scr-


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vants' hall. The celebrated artists were not only
tremendous swells, but millionaires, — or might be
if they chose. All the world coveted them, and
flattered them, and their works were coimted the
glory of the state. There was Zeuxis, for instance,
who used to parade about Olympia with his name
embroidered in gold on his robes, and who amassed
such a gigantic fortune from the sale of his pic-
tures that finally he would not sell any more, but
gave them away, saying there was no price high
enough to pay for them. He was fooled to the top
of his bent everywhere. He was the admired of
all admirers, — courted by all his countrymen, high
or low, and famous abroad. He did not ask favors,
but conferred them, and in a princely way pre-
sented his work to cities, and states, and friends.
For instance, to Archilaus he gave his Pan ; and
to the inhabitants of Agrigentum his Alcmena, as
a great favor.

B, According to your account he must have
been both vain and ostentatious ; but one can
scarcely wonder, when such court was paid him,
and such fortune waited on him.

M. In point of mere pride and luxury Par-
rhasius exceeded him. " He was," says Pliny,
" the most insolent and arrogant of artists." He
painted a portrait of himself, and dedicated it in
a public temple to Mercury. But Apollodorus,
perhaps, surpassed him. He used to walk about
Athens with a lofty tiara on his head, after the
Persian fashion, "the admired of all admirers,"


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Nicias was equally proud, vain, wealthy, and gen-
erous, and he refused to sell his picture of the
NcKvta (Summoning of Spirits) to King Attains,
who offered him 60 talents, and rather chose to
present it to his coimtry as a gift.

B. How much would 60 talents be exactly ?

M, That depends on whether they are Attic or

' ^ginetan talents. An Attic or Euboic talent was

about <£293 155., and an ^ginetan talent about

£393 15«. Taking the lesser Attic talent at round

numbers at <£250, 60 talents would be £15,000.

B. Fifteen thousand pounds is a " good round
sum," as Shylock has it. I suppose there is not a
living artist that would refuse it for any picture of
his. Nicias must have been a rich man to be able
to refuse it.

M. He was an artist of distinction, and that
meant a rich man in Greece.

B. So it would seem.
. M. King Attains seems to have had a decided
taste for art, and to have paid handsomely for
what he bought. For a single figure by Aristides
he gave 100 talents, or about £25,000. You
see that I calculate at the lowest possible rates of
value of the talent. Mnason, the tyrant of Elatea,
was not so good or generous a patron apparently,
for he had the meanness to offer to pay the same
artist for a small picture representing a battle of
the Persians, on which there were one hundred fig-
ures, only at the rate of 10 minse, or a little over
£40, for each figure, — which would only make
about £4,000 for the picture.


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jB. I suppose the picture was small and the
figures overlapping and hiding each other, as in
any representation of such a subject they must.
So that really the price does not strike me as being

Jf. It was very small for the period, but Mna-
son was a sharp dealer. He gave Asclepiodorus
only 300 minae, or about Xl,250 apiece, for twelve
figures by him, representing the twelve gods ; and
Theomnestus he seems to have treated still worse,
for he only offered him 100 minae, or about £400,
for any picture he would paint of a hero.

B. When wholesale orders are given like these,
one cannot expect such high prices. Besides, it is
plain that these were mere decorative pictures of
effect, each of a single figure. We should think
the prices very high for such works.

M, Julius Csesar was a far more generous
patron of painting. He bought of Timomachus,
the painter of Athens, two, figures, one represent-
ing Ajax and the other Medea, which he placed
in the temple of Venus Genetrix, for which he
paid 80 Attic talents, or £20,000. This is a hand-
some sum when one thinks that each picture only
represented a single figure.

B. Who would have supposed the great first
Caesar was such a lover and patron of art ? We
never think of him in this relation, but rather as
the great soldier and statesman.

M. All the emperors, or nearly all, were de-
voted to art. And some of them, as Hadrian and


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Nero, you remember, were artists themselves. Art
was a part of their education, as it was of every
high-bom Roman or Greek. The Fabii, ''claris-
simae gentis," had the cognomen of Pictor, derived
from the chief of the family who painted the Tem-
ple of Health in 450 u. c. ; and this painting ex-
isted in the time of Pliny* We may also men-
tion, among others, Cicero and Hortensius, Marcus
Agrippa, Crassus, Titus Petronius, and more than
all Marcus Scaurus, and Lucius, and Marcus Lu-
cullus, who were all liberal patrons and lovers of
art. The sums which were spent by the latter on
works of art seem almost fabulous.

B. One better understands how the Eomans,
many of whom were enormously rich, could spend
large sums on art ; but what surprises ine is to
hear that the Greeks also quite equaled them in
the sums they expended on paintings and statues,

Jtf. They certainly do not seem to have fallen
below them. I have foimd my list at last, — and
this will prompt my memory, — and I will pick
out some of the items for you. Apelles, I find,
received 20 talents in gold, or from £5,000 to
£6,000, for a portrait of Alexander wielding a
thunderbolt, which he painted on the walls of the

(Temple of Diana at Ephesus. He was a high-
minded, generous man, and his conduct towards
Protogenes, a fellow -painter of Rhodes, alwaya
particularly pleased me, as showing a spirit abov^
envy and jealousy. The Rhodians at first made
very little account of Protogenes, as is so often the


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case when we are dealing with men who grow up
familiarly among us. A painter as well as a
prophet has often little honor in his own country
until he is valued abroad. Protogenes was a strik-
ing example of this. In the early part of his career
his patrons were few, and he was forced to set a
small price on his works. But Apelles when on a
visit to Rhodes went to see him, and was so struck
by his pictures that he at once offered him 50 tal-
ents apiece, or from <£ 12,500 to X 15,000, for those
he had in his studio. Protogenes gladly accepted
it ; and as soon as the report spread that the great
painter had given this price, the Rhodians besieged
him to purchase them back from him. But Apelle s
rebuked them for their treatment of Protogenes,
and refused to surrender them except at an ad-
vanced price, saying they were worth far more than
he had been able to give. From that time for-
ward the fortune of Protogenes was made.

B, That was a noble act, which deserves to be
remembered, and told when the jealousies of ar-
tists are commented on. It gives one a notion of
the wealth of the great artists, too. There are very
few of us now who could afford to do so generous
an act, however we might desire to do it. What
a pity it is that we have nothing left of any of the
great \ ^rks of Apelles !

M. Ah, yes! whaOvould one not give to see
that famous picture of his of Venus Anadyomene,
for which two of the most beautiful women of the
age sat to him as models, — Phryne and Cam-


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paspe! Phryne, Athenaeus says, was the most
beautiful in the nude figure, though Campaspe
excelled her in beauty of face. But I should be
satisfied to see either of them, or have either for
a model.

B. I should rather have had them both, as he
had. When one is wishing, why restrict one's self
to the possible ? Of course I would not now be
living if I had ever seen either in the living body ;
but why should I not wish for the impossible ? At
all events, it is abominable in Fate to prevent me
from seeing at least a portrait of each or both.

M, Or many another portrait that has van-
ished. For instance, any one by Dionysius of
Colophon, who was so celebrated for the life-like
character of his works that, speaking of one of
them, Anacreon says : —

' ' Hold ! I see, — 't is she herself :
Soon, O wax, thou It surely speak ! "

Wax meaning, of course, colors ; for all paintings
were in wax as a medium.

Airexct • jSXeTTO) yap axrrriv
Ta;(a, icqpky #cat \aXri<T€i%.

Or the portrait painted by Polygnotus of Elpinice,
his mistress, and the daughter of Miltiades. True,
she was thirty-five when it was painted, but still
in the perfection of her beauty and grace, and he
chose her as his model for the daughter of Priam,
in his famous picture of " The Rape of Cassandra ''
in the Poecile at Athens. Indeed, I should not


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( ^


be displeased to see the portrait of Miltiades him-
self, which was placed in the Poecile, and on which
he was not permitted to inscribe his name.

B. Oh, Polygnotus seems to have been a mag-
nificent old fellow, — an artist prince, who did
things in the grand style. He it was, if I remem-
ber right, who painted at Athens the porch called
the Poecile, refusing to receive any remuneration
therefor. And the Amphictyons or Public Coun-
cil of Greece, unwilling to be outdone in generos-
ity, made him the guest of the state, and bestowed
upon him his house and maintenance at the public

M. Yes ; and yet they would not let him put
his name on his portrait ! Odd enough, is it not ?
But to go on. Here I find a statement which
gives us an idea of the value attached to pictures
by the old Greeks. Plutarch relates that Aratus,
being desirous to make a present to Ptolemy, sent
him some old pictures by Melanthus and Pam-
philus ; and in recompense for them Ptolemy sent
in return 150 talents, which, if they were merely
Attic talents, amounted to some £37,500.

B* Pray continue with your list.

M. I am afraid I have exhausted my list of
pictures, the prices of which are stated in talents.
One cannot say whether the talent of Attica or
JEgineta is intended when they are spoken of ; but
as I have taken the lesser Attic talent, we may be
sure that we have not overestimated the prices.
The sums paid for the other pictures of which I


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have made notes 'are all stated in sesterces. Un-
fortunately, the signs employed by the Bomans to
express sestertii or sestertia are exceedingly con-
fusing, and we cannot always determine whether
the sum given is to be estimated in sestertii or
sestertia. The difference, however, is very great
between the one and the other. The sestertius
was 2J asses, and before the time of Augustus was
of about the value of 2^^ pence, and afterwards of
about If pence ; while the sestertium was, previous
to Augustus, of about the value of X8 17s., after-
wards of £1 16«. So far this is clear ; but as the
sign HS or IIS meant both sestertium and sester-
tius (meaning semis et tertium)^ if the number be
represented by the Roman letters, as H.S. xxv., it
may mean either, and we are quite in the dark.
We can only be sure when the nimiber is written
— as H.S. trecenti, or H.S. trecenta, or H.S.
decies. I should also state that, where this num-
ber is preceded by a numeral adverb ending in
" ies," the niunber must be multiplied by 100,000.
Having premised this, I only give you a few more
citations from my list. I have already alluded to
M. Agrippa as a patron of art. He it was, you
remember, who built and bequeathed to his coun-
trymen the magnificent Thermae in the Campus
Martins, with their splendid gardens, libraries, and
porticoes, — one portion of which, the Pantheon,
" pride of Rome," as Byron calls it, still remains.
Though a man of enormous wealth, as well as of
great distinction, not only for his public services


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in war, but also from being allied to the imperial
family by his marriage with Julia, the daughter of
Augustus (and a precious life she led him, too), he
was simple and severe in his tastes and in his
habits. Still, as you see, he had both the power
and the will to make munificent gifts to the people
beyond anything known at the present day. And
not content with this, he wrote an oration, urging
upon those who possessed statues, pictures, or
works of art of any kind, the duty of exhibiting
them to the public. What is to our purpose at
present, however, is the fact recorded by Pliny,
that he paid to the people of Cyzicus for two paint-
ings, one representing Ajax and one Venus, the
small simi of 1,200,000 sesterces, which, reckoned
at their lowest value, amounted to over <£10,600.

B. These could have been only single figures
apparently, — ideal portraits. By whom were they

M. Pliny does not inform us. Had they been
by one of the most celebrated artists, he would
probably have given his name. But this is mere

B. Well, go on.

M. What gives more probability to the conjec-
ture that these pictures were not by any very emi-
nent artist, is the value attached to one picture by
Aristides. This picture, representing Father Bac-
chus, was brought from Greece by Lucius Mimi-
mius, among the spoils of victory, and he made a
contract for the sale of it with Attalus, king of


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Pergamus, for the bagatelle of 6,000 sestertia, —
" vi. mil sestertium ; " but he afterwards, to the
great regret of Attains, revoked the sale, on the
ground that the price was too small.

B. Six thousand sestertia! That would be about
£52,500 of our money.

M. Yes. There is no mistake here, unless Pliny
made it, for the words are written " vi. mil sester-

B. That is, £12,500 more than is asked for the
altar-piece by KafiEaeUe, of which we were speaking,
without taking into consideration the decrease in
the value of money since the days of the Roman
Empire; but taking it at an equal valuation, it
seems almost incredible. By the way, is it not of
this Mummius that the story is told, that when he
was embarking some of these magnificent works
of which he robbed Greece, he obliged the captain
of the vessel to sign an obligation that in case any
of them were lost or destroyed he would replace
them with others?

M. The same. Poor man ! he knew more about
war than art, and probably supposed one picture or
statue was as good as another, provided it was of
the same size. But art had its revenge upon him ;
not all his victories could relieve him from the rid-
icule he brought upon himself by this absurd con-
tract. There was a roar of inextinguishable laugh-
ter over all Eome when it became known.

B. Have you any other instance of so large a
price being given for a single work of art ?


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M. Not for a picture, — though larger prices
were given for statues, as you will see. Strabo,
however, tells us that when a gre^t tribute was im-
posed upon the inhabitants of Cos, an offer was
made to them to abate from it the sum of 100 tal-
ents for the picture of Venus Anadyomene by
ApeUes ; but whether this offer was accepted or
not, he does not state.

B. Were these Attic or ^ginetan talents ?

M. Probably Attic, — which would make this
sum about <£25,000 ; if they were ^ginetan, they
would be nearly X35,000. But it is safer to con-
sider them as Attic. I have but few other notes
of pictures, and not of much consequence. We
have seen that King Attains lost one picture of
Aristides, on which he had set his heart, among
the spoils of Lucius Mimmiius ; but he did get
possession of another by this artist representing a
sick man lying on his bed, for which he paid 100
talents. Candaules, too, the last Lydian king of
the race of the Heraclidae, bought of the painter
Bularchus his picture representing the battle
fought by Candaules with the Magnetes, for which
he paid him its weight in gold. This is wholly
indefinite, as we do not know its weight ; but it
must have been considerable, as paintings were
then made on heavy wooden panels.

B. It would seem, at least, that even at this
early period art was valued. This was, if I re-
member right, about the end of the eighth century
before Christ, — some four centuries before gold


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began to be coined at Athens. But, as we know
from Herodotus, the Lydians had long before
coined gold, and were, according to him, the first
who did. What a story it is that Herodotus tells
of Candaules and Gyges !

M. Candaules must have been an egregious ass,
or he would have known better than to have ex-
posed the charms of his wife to his rival ; but he
had to pay for his folly with his life, and so the
account was squared,

B. Possibly this very picture by Bularchus
was hanging in the chamber of the queen when
Gyges looked in from the closet where Candaules
hid him to prove his wife the most beautiful of

M. Very possible. What a charm there is in
the Father of History ! what simple directness and
picturesqueness ! I don't know that dignity has
added much to history. The further it removes
itself from annals, the statelier and stupider it

B, Apropos of the very subject we are discus-
sing, let me recall to you the tradition that He-
rodotus, when an old man, read his History to an
Athenian audience at the Panathenaic festival, and
so enchanted them that they gave him ten talents,
or X2,500, as a recompense. That was better than
lecturing even in America. I doubt whether even
Bancroft, Motley, or Prescott would ever have made
as much by reading their histories, admirable as
iney are, in the Athens of America.


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M. Isocrates, it is said, received a sum equiva-
lent to about £3,875 for one oration ; and Virgil,
for his famous lines on Marcellus, was rewarded by
a gift of about £1,700 ; and, according to Sueto-
nius, Tiberius presented to Asellius Sabinus 400,000
sesterces (about X3,540) for a dialogue he wrote
between a mushroom, a cabbage, an oyster, and a
thrush, in which they disputed among themselves.
But' to go back to our pictures. I have only two
more on my list. They are of little consequence,
but here they are. Hortensius the orator — whom
Cicero admired, whom Roscius imitated, and whose
memory was so remarkable that he is said to have
been able, in coming out of a sale-room, to repeat
backward the auction -list — was also a lover of
pictures ; and for a painting of the Argonauts© by
Cydias, he paid 144,000 sestertii or sestertia, as
you choose, for which he constructed a shrine at
Tusculum, and, I have no doubt, discussed its
merits there with Cicero.

B. It is pleasant to think of those great men of
the past walking through their libraries and porti-
coes, and talking of art and literature and politics,
and descanting upon each other's statues and pic-
tures ; and I am glad to know even one picture in
the house of Hortensius. It makes him more real
to me. I wish I knew what others he had.

M. Many, I doubt not, and very valuable ones,
for he was a man of great wealth as well as great
taste and culture. Among other works of art he
had a sphinx of Corinthian brass, which he ob-


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tained from Verres, and referring to which Cicero
made a statement which Pliny has thought worthy
of repeating. Hortensius, in arguing witii him,
said warmly, "I do not understand enigmas."
" But you should," returned Cicero, " for you keep
a sphinx at home." This was what the Bomans,
perhaps, considered witty. I have only one more
picture to speak of, and then we will turn to the
statues, and this was a picture of Archigallus,
painted by Parrhasius, and estimated at 60,000
sestertia, which the emperor Tiberius owned, and
kept constantly in his bed-chamber. And now that
I speak of it, there was still one other picture, by
Parrhasius, which was offered by testament of the
Roman knight to whom it belonged to the emperor
Tiberius, — he having the option to receive it, or
take in its place a million sesterces. The subject
was an abominable one, but Tiberius chose the pic-
ture, and kept it in his bed-chamber. K you are
anxious as to the subject, you will find it described
in the pages of Suetonius, in his life of the em-

B. I know what the tastes of Tiberius were,
and I can imagine the subject. But let us now
have the statues.

M. Very well; I will begin with the colossal
statues. The famous Colossus at Ehodes, which
was made of bronze and was 70 cubits (or about
105 feet) in height, was twelve years in making,
is said to have cost only 800 talents, or about
£75,000 if we reckon the Attic talent, or £102,000


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if we reckon the other talent, and probably the
latter talent is to be reckoned in this case. At all
events, the so-called Colossus of the Sun, in the
Capitol, which was a bronze figure of Apollo, only
thirty cubits — or forty-five feet English — high,
brought by Marcus Lucullus from Apollonia, in
Pontus, cost 500 talents, which, if reckoned even
as Attic talents, would be over £125,000 ; and it
would hardly be probable that the Colossus at
Bhodes, which was twice its height, could have
been executed for so much less. But this is a
trifle compared to the price paid for a colossal
statue of Mercury, made for the city of the
Averni in Gaul, by Zenodorus. On this work he
was engaged for ten years, and the cost of it was

B. What did the gold and ivory Athena of
Phidias in the Parthenon, or his Zeus at Olympia,
cost ? These will give us some rule to reckon by,

M. I am not aware that the whole cost of these
statues is stated by any ancient author. The gold
employed on the movable drapery alone of the
Athena was over forty talents in weight of unal-
loyed gold, according to Thucydides, whose exact-
ness in such matters is above suspicion. This
would be equivalent to some £116,000 in coin ;
while a single lock on the head of the Zeus at
Olympia weighed six minse, or about the value of
nearly £5,000. For the famous statue of the Dia-
dumenos, which was a bronze figure of life-size.

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