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This painting’s story is based on a play by the classical author Euripides. The two semi-naked men have been arrested for trying to steal a gold statue of the goddess Diana from the temple. They have been brought before Iphigenia, a priestess of Diana, to be sacrificed on the altar. But here Iphigenia recognises the man in the red drapery as her long-lost brother, Orestes. The composition of this picture was heavily influenced by the artist’s studies in Italy. He particularly admired the sculptural friezes on classical tombs and the Renaissance frescoes of Raphael.

February 2016