16 May 2010

"Phryne in Front of the Judges" (Gerome, 1861)

I found the photo of this painting at Consciousness is a Congenital Hallucination (via Suddenly), but wasn't familiar with the story depicted.  She was a famously beautiful courtesan in ancient Greece...
Her real name was Mnesarete (Ancient Greek Μνησαρετή (commemorating virtue)), but owing to her yellowish complexion she was called Phryne (toad), a name given to other courtesans...

When accused of profaning the Eleusinian mysteries, she was defended by the orator Hypereides, one of her lovers... When it seemed as if the verdict would be unfavourable, Hypereides tore open her robe and displayed her breasts, which so moved her judges that they acquitted her. According to others, she herself removed her clothing. The judges' change of heart was not simply because they were overcome by the beauty of her nude body, but because physical beauty was often seen as a facet of divinity or a mark of divine favor during those times.
Click photo for fullsize.


  1. Excellent painting! Great use of light and action-packed.

  2. great historical info. I love these little snippets of the ancient world

  3. as far as i know she was accused of heresy. the reason for that was her ordering a mason to build a statue of aphrodite....based on her body.
    this was, of course a scandal in Athens. No mortal should ever compare themself to the gods, let alone aphrodite.
    She was immediatly draged to court. the penalty: death
    But when she/her good friend and lawyer(two versions of the story) opened her hair and removed her robes. the court was so astonished by her beauty that they found her to be not guilty and the only woman worthy of posing as aphrodite.
    i think that pretty much every statue of aphrodite that exists today is an image of Phryne.
    but of course...thats only a theory :)

  4. WHO IS in the black Robes behind her.

    Is that a deity or Manifestation of a deity.
    Does it represent anything?


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