Jean-Leon Gerome

Phryne before the Areopagus - 1861

Art Collection #1

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Phryne before the Areopagus, 1861

Phryne was a courtesan in ancient Greece known for her hard-earned riches (that’s what she said!), but mostly for her immense beauty. It is well known that the sculptor Praxiteles modeled his famous statue of Aphrodite of Knidos on Phryne’s appearance, in addition to another of Eros and a gold statue of Phryne proper.
She seems to have had some minor scandals in her life, so it was probably unsurprising to most when she came up on charges of ‘impiety,’ which is disrespect for the sacred. Her lover, orator Hypereides, defended her in court. When it was looking like he might lose the case, Hypereides is said to have whipped off her clothes, revealing her beauty to the judges who then refused to condemn a priestess of Aphrodite to death.

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