Thursday, February 1, 2024

Married to Her Passion: the Ace Roman Painter Iaia, Pliny the Elder Nat. Hist. 35.147-148

Pinxere et mulieres: Timarete, Miconis filia, Dianam, quae in tabula Ephesi est antiquissimae picturae; Irene, Cratini pictoris filia et discipula, puellam, quae est Eleusine, Calypso, senem et praestigiatorem Theodorum, Alcisthenen saltatorem; Aristarete, Nearchi filia et discipula, Aesculapium. Iaia Cyzicena, perpetua virgo, M. Varronis iuventa Romae et penicillo pinxit et cestro in ebore imagines mulierum maxime et Neapoli anum in grandi tabula, suam quoque imaginem ad speculum. nec ullius velocior in pictura manus fuit, artis vero tantum, ut multum manipretiis antecederet celeberrimos eadem aetate imaginum pictores Sopolim et Dionysium, quorum tabulae pinacothecas inplent. pinxit et quaedam Olympias, de qua hoc solum memoratur, discipulum eius fuisse Autobulum.

--Pliny the Elder, Nat. Hist. 35.147-148

There were also women painters:

  • Timarete, the daughter of Micon, [the creator of] Diana, a painting in Ephesus that is among the oldest
  • Irene, the daughter and protégé of the painter Cratinus, [the creator of] The Girl / Proserpina / Kore (which is on display at Eleusis), as well as a painting of Calypso, an old man, and the juggler Theodorus, as well as the dancer Alcisthenes
  • Aristarete, the daughter and protégé of Nearchus, [the creator of] Aesculapius.
  • Iaia of Cyzicus, who never married, was a painter at Rome during the time of Marcus Varro’s youth, did both paintings and engravings in ivory. Her specialty was portraits of women, the most famous of which is on display at Naples, a huge portrait of an old woman, as well as a self portrait in a mirror. No painter was faster at the art, and she was so skilled that her works were more valuable than even very famous artists of the time period, Sopolis and Dionysius, whose paintings litter our modern museums.
  • Some woman named Olympias, but the only thing we really still know about her was that she had a protégé named Autobulus.



Name:  Gaius Plinius Secundus

Date:  23 – 79 CE

Works:  Naturalis Historia*



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



 Pliny was an Italian-born Roman statesman and author who lived during the reigns of the early Roman emperors. He spent most of his life in service of his country; he ultimately gave his life in arranging the evacuation of the regions devastated by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE. His work, the Natural History, is a 37-volume collection of art, history, and science of the ancient world.


Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE


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