Plate XLVI - Sacrifice of Iphigenia

Plate XLVI represents the sacrifice of Iphigenia at Aulis. Chalcas had already taken the fatal knife, and was going to immolate the virgin, when Diana, appeased by the submission of Agamemnon, substituted a hind in the place of the innocent victim. The goddess and the animal are seen in the clouds.

In the original, the hard features of Chalcas are well imagined. Many artists have complained that the feet of Iphigenia are not seen, but they might have been concealed by the male figure, and the ancients seem seldom to have represented the limbs which were not absolutely necessary.

Timanthes, of Sicyon, was highly applauded for having painted a picture of this subject with the countenance of Agamemnon hidden, the expression being beyond the art of painting. He lived in the time of Philip of Macedon ; but it appears that Polygnotus of Thasos, who lived in the fifth century before Christ, had also painted the same subject, and Euripides had imagined it, with the same circumstances as those represented in the temple at Delphi by Timanthes. It is very satisfactory to have an ancient representation of any subject the meaning of which admits of so little dispute.

Iphigenia has a yellow drapery, and the two persons who are holding her have mantles of a violet colour. Chalcas has a purple dress, and over it, tied round the waist, a yellow drapery.

Agamemnon has a long cloak of a dark-blue tint ; but, notwithstanding the frequent use of purple in the picture, the general effect produced by the whole is red, the skin, the hair, and almost every thing inclining to that colour.

The picture is invaluable, and was in good preservation ; but either that the subject is not agreeable, or from some other motive, it is one of the least pleasing of the paintings at Pompeii.

The oven of the fullonica is immediately behind this picture, and it must be presumed that the heat must have penetrated the wall, but the colours do not seem to have suffered.