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Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (Dutch, active in England, 1836–1912)),
The Convalescent , 1869
oil on panel, 27 ¾ x 18 ¼ in.; 70.49 x 46.36 cm
Gift of Francis T. B. Martin, 1991.3

Instead of momentous historical events, Alma-Tadema’s much-admired paintings of classical antiquity depict aspects of everyday life imaginable in any era. In fact, they show activities that would have been familiar to his Victorian patrons, but in historical costume. Whether a Greek sculptor at work, or a convalescent Roman girl worried about missing the banquet being prepared behind her, Alma-Tadema’s scenes are made to look “real” by a host of archaeologically correct details. While they owe much to the colorful, descriptive style of England’s mid-century Pre-Raphaelites, these historical anecdotes also parallel those by such contemporary French Academic artists as Gérôme and Meissonier.

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