Fame and Erato, Muse of Love Poetry

Accession Number

Fame and Erato, Muse of Love Poetry

Sebastiano Conca

Object Creation Date
circa 1725

Medium & Support
oil on canvas

24 3/4 in. x 31 in. x 2 in. ( 62.87 cm x 78.74 cm x 5.08 cm )

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by a gift from Helmut Stern

Label copy
March 28, 2009
Conca produced numerous paintings of classical, mythological, and allegorical subjects, a genre highly esteemed in the traditional collecting circles of eighteenth-century Italy. This painting was conceived as a companion to another painting by Conca entitled Hercules Crowned by Fame, which together served as an allegory of the virtuous life and deeds of Hercules and their celebration in epic and lyric poetry by the Muses.
The precise subject of this painting is not clear, but it appears to represent the Muses of epic and lyric poetry, Calliope and Erato. The figure on the right, Erato, is identified by her lyre—the attribute of the Muse of lyric and amorous poetry. The figure on the left is more difficult to identify because Conca did not follow closely the standard representations of allegorical figures. The presence of the globe and of the compass held by the winged goddess are attributes of Urania, the Muse of astronomy, while the book and crown of laurel are attributes of Calliope, the muse of epic poetry

Physical Description
Two women accompanied by a pair of putti appear seated in the foreground of this painting. On the left sits a winged woman crowned with a laurel wreath and wearing a long white robe and a vivid ocher-colored mantle. She leans on a globe while cradling a large book in her right arm to which she points with her left hand. In her right hand she holds a compass. A putto peeks from beneath her mantle, and a viol is visible beneath the globe. The other woman sits on a cloud. She wears a golden crown and a richly colored blue mantle. She grasps a lyre with her left hand and leans toward the woman seated next to her, gesturing in the direction of the book with her right hand. A second putto stands near her left shoulder holding a gold circlet in his left hand. The background is filled with glimpses of neoclassical architecture, including fluted columns and a facade with a row of Ionic columns supporting an entablature.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
narrative painting

Collection Area

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allegory (artistic device)
globes (cartographic spheres)
oil paintings (visual works)
putti (motifs)

& Author Notes

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