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date: 18 August 2019


(fl late 4th century bc).
  • C. Hobey-Hamsher


(fl late 4th century bc).

Greek painter. Pliny (Natural History, XXXV.78) placed Aetion in the 107th Olympiad (352–349 bc) and (XXXV.50) included him in a list of painters who used a palette restricted to four colours: white, yellow, red and black. Cicero (Brutus xviii.70), however, listed him among those painters who used a wider palette. It is likely that the four-colour palette was a restriction adopted occasionally by many artists who, in other works, used more than four colours. None of Aetion’s work survives, but Pliny ascribed to him pictures of Dionysos, Tragedy and Comedy, Semiramis Rising from Slavery to Royal Power and an Old Woman Carrying Lamps and Attending a Bride, whose modesty was apparent. His most famous painting depicted the Wedding of Alexander the Great and Roxane, and it was perhaps painted to celebrate it (327 bc). It was described by Lucian of Samosata (Aetion iv–vi), who saw it in Italy. Lucian added that when the painting was shown at Olympia, Proxenides, one of the chief judges of the games, was so impressed by it that he gave his daughter to Aetion in marriage. Alexander the Great stood best man. The painting included erotes playing with Alexander’s armour, a motif repeated in several Roman wall paintings with reference to Mars and Hercules. Another Aetion, also assigned to the 107th Olympiad, appears in a list of bronze sculptors drawn up by Pliny (XXXIV.50); this is probably an interpolation from XXXV.78....

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