William Etty

Candaules, King of Lydia, Shews his Wife by Stealth to Gyges, One of his Ministers, as She Goes to Bed

exhibited 1830

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Not on display

William Etty 1787–1849
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 451 × 559 mm
frame: 700 × 805 × 120 mm
Presented by Robert Vernon 1847

Display caption

The Lydian king, Candaules, had arranged for his general, Gyges, to view his wife, Nyssia, as she undressed. The furious queen offered Gyges the choice of being executed or murdering her husband. Gyges chose the latter, and went on to marry her.Etty here subverts the language of neo-classical history painting. Instead of improving themes, Etty uses it for an erotic subject of voyeurism and vengeance. He emphasises colour and texture rather than outline, and treats physical beauty as the object of lust and deception. His picture typified the Romantic challenge to moral and pictorial conventions.

Gallery label, May 2007

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