ANONYMOUS SIENESE FROM THE 16TH CENTURY
Sacrifice of Codrus
oil on canvas, 126×194 cm
Described by Emilio Negro as “in good state of preservation”, this work, “completed by its elegant original frame in gilt wood”, was presented as a hitherto unpublished work at the Palazzo Chigi of Ariccia in 2004 at the exhibition curated by Francesco Petrucci The faces of power. Portraits of famous men in Rome from the Roman Empire to Neoclassicism (Rome, 2004, no. 4, pages 76-77).
According to the scholar, the canvas “features an episode from antique history, described in Factorum et dictorum memorabilium libri IX (5, 6, ext. 1), an anthology with short stories presented as examples of good and bad conduct associated with the life of famous personalities” written by Valerio Massimo: it is a matter of the story about Codrus, an Athenian monarch from the 8th century BC, who during a siege gave his life for the city, which according to a prophecy would not have been conquered if the king were killed by the enemies. To prevent the enemies, who knew about the prophecy, from saving him, Codrus “lay off his royal robe and camouflaged himself as a simple soldier” and found his death in battle, thus saving Athens. Three episodes of the story are presented on the canvas: from the left we see “the Stoic monarch with sceptre and royal robe, bared of everything, and finally dead on the ground, killed by the enemies” in the fascinating top right corner with a rearing horse.