Sir Edward Poynter

A Visit to Aesculapius

1880

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1511 x 2286 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1880
Reference
N01586

Display caption

Aesculapius was the Greek god of healing and medicine, and is symbolised by a snake curled around a staff. In a scene taken from a poem by the Elizabethan Thomas Watson, Poynter shows him being consulted by Venus who has a thorn in her foot. Venus is identified by the doves, which are her attributes, and she is accompanied by her handmaidens, the three Graces, who are the personification of grace and beauty. Poynter posed them in the traditional Classical manner, with two of the Graces facing the viewer, while one turns her back. The resulting frieze of figures creates a subtle and elegant rhythm across the composition.

Gallery label, August 2004