And yet they say that once on a time when Agatharchus the painter was boasting loudly of the speed and ease with which he made his figures, Zeuxis heard him, and said, “Mine take, and last, a long time.”

Agatharchus () was an Athenian painter of the 5th century BC. He is said by Vitruvius to have been the first to paint a scene for the acting of tragedies. Hence some writers, such as Karl Woermann, have supposed that he introduced perspective and illusion into painting.

This is a mistaken view, for ancient writers know nothing of canvas scenes; the background painted by Agatharchus was the wooden front of the stage building, and it was painted, not with reference to any particular play, but as a permanent decorative background, representing no doubt a palace or temple. Agatharchus is said to have been seized by Alcibiades and compelled by him to paint the interior of his house, which shows that at the time (about 435 BC) decorative painting of rooms was the fashion.


This article incorporates text from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, which is in the public domain.

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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