Description Phyrné stands on an ivory socle mounted on a wooden base. Her elaborately braided coiffure is bound with a ribbon and a strand of graduated pearls. Turning her head, she shields her face with her left forearm. Phyré ambiguously conteracts this gesture of modesty by raising her right arm over her head to display her voluptuous torso to best advantage. In the 19th century, the famous courtesan was popularized by Jean-Léon Gérôme's masterpiece of 1861, "Phyrne before the Tribunal," illustrating the titillating moment when the orator Hypereides won his client's acquittal by baring her bosom to the appreciative Athenian judges. Having served as the model for Praxiteles and Apelles as well, the subject of Phyrné offered artists an occasion for representing an idealized nude. Gérôme's figure frequently served as the prototype for representations of Phrne in bronze, ivory, and silver. The Walters ivory differs from Gèrôme's composition in the position of the figure's arms. An ivory of this subject by Scailliet was exhibitied at the Salon in Paris in 1874. Several versions are known.
- The Spectacular Art of Jean-Léon Gérôme. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Musee D'Orsay, Paris; Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. 2010-2011.
Provenance William T. / Henry Walters Collection, Baltimore [date of acquisition unknown], by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by William T. or Henry Walters
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