Thursday, December 3, 2015

Roman Theater, Taormina

The French artist Louise Josephine Sarazin de Belmont (1790-1870) painted two versions of the ruins of the Roman theater at Taormina in Sicily during the 1820s.  Little known today, Sarazin, was born in Versailles and studied under Pierre Henri Valenciennes, who was attempting to revive classical French landscape painting.  Lacking a patron, Sarazin lived by auctioning her paintings to finance her travels becoming the first female artist to have her works sold at a solo auction (for more on her background and career see the Master's Thesis by Alexandria Samantha Guillory (Louisiana State University, 2014).
From  That's Mount Etna in the background.

(from flickr)
In this version we have different figures in the foreground, two of them apparently monks, and Mount Etna seems more active.

Taormina was founded in the 8th century BC by immigrants from the Greek island of Naxos.  By the late third century it had fallen under the rule of the Roman Republic and thereafter was part of the Empire (both the one centered in Rome and then part of the Byzantine) for most of the next 1100 years until it fell to Arab invaders in 902 AD.

Theaters were an essential element of Roman cities and can be found from Spain and Morocco to Syria.  The haunting ruins remind us of the scale of classical civilization.

The modern Taormina is a popular higher end resort.

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