John Flaxman

Alcestis and Admetus


On display at Tate Britain

Ink, watercolour and graphite on paper
Support: 238 x 417 mm
Purchased as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund 1996

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.

Gallery label, September 2004


William Blake: Flaxman – 1

Why are we showing Flaxman's work next to Blake? Curator Martin Myrone

William Blake: Flaxman – 2

How did Flaxman influence Blake? Curator Martin Myrone