8. Ungallant Behavior Leads to a Tragicomic Death
Although Zeuxis was a master of realism, he was trumped in his artistic competition with Parhassius, who invited Zeuxis to examine the competing painting. When he tried to push aside the cloth covering in order to unveil the painting, Zeuxis discovered, to his chagrin, that the “cloth” was the painting itself. A good sport, he conceded that his rival had won, stating: “I have deceived the birds, but Parhassius has deceived Zeuxis“. Centuries later, the rivalry over realism between Zeuxis and Parhassius was viewed by Renaissance painters as a challenge and a spur in their quest to surpass the ancients.
Zeuxis’ tragicomic end came because of his ungallant conduct towards a wealthy patroness. A rich elderly woman hired him to do painting of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of procreation, pleasure, love, and beauty. However, she wanted the painting fashioned in her own likeness and proceeded to pose as the model. The jarring contrast between Aphrodite, who was supposed to be the epitome of beauty, and the wrinkled old woman wanting to pose as a model for the goddess, was too much for Zeuxis. He burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter and kept on laughing until he dropped over, dead.