John Flaxman Alcestis and Admetus 1789

Artwork details

John Flaxman 1755–1826
Alcestis and Admetus
Date 1789
Medium Ink, watercolour and graphite on paper
Dimensions Support: 238 x 417 mm
Acquisition Purchased as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund 1996
On display at Tate Britain

Display caption

The subject of this drawing comes from the tragedy 'Alcestis'. This was written by the Greek playwright Euripides and was first performed in 438 BC. It was based on the legend of Admetus and his wife Alcestis. Apollo, the friend of Admetus, has persuaded the Fates to let Admetus escape death if someone else can be found to die in his place. Alcestis is the only person prepared to do this. After her death Admetus is grief-struck. Hercules brings Alcestis back from the dead. Flaxman was a sculptor and this design owes a debt to Antique relief sculpture. A greater influence, however, were the designs on ancient Greek vases which Flaxman studied when he was in Italy.

September 2004