Jean-Léon Gérôme. "Fryne's judgement". (1861). All rights reserved.

This painting shows one of my favourite stories of the Ancient Greece and was immortalized by the French painter and Sculptor Jean-Léon Gerome, an Academicist Artist of 19th century. This classic matter is not strange in his production, usual for the Academical Art of that age all around Europe. Maybe Gérôme is one of the most wellknown artists I use to write about, but this painting is special for me.

I´m going to tell you this story about Fryne and then I´ll analyze the painting. Fryne is not a mythological being, she was human, a very beautiful woman who modeled for the Greek sculptor Praxiteles. Fryne is a nickname, her real name was Mnésareté that means commemorator of virtue. She was born in Tepsias in 328 B.C.

Fryne was judged by the crime of merciless, because she used to compare herself with Aphrodite. She was so beauty that modeled for sculpting godesses (she was probably the model for Venus of Cnido). In the judgment she was defended by a good lawyer: Hisperides, a good friend of Praxiteles, but he was unable to convince the audience. So he showed Fryne nude and asked to the judges if was right to private the world to so incredible beauty. This argument convinced the judges and Fryne was free.

How to represent this incredible story? Gérôme does it as a master. The scene is inside a complex architecture: squared in the ceiling and circular (elliptical in perspective) on the floor. Around the circle, in the right side and the center are located all the judges. In the right side, on the focus of the ellipse, Fryne being naked by Hisperides. In the extreme left a man, probably Praxiteles. The red of the dress of the judges contrastates with the brilliant nude body of Fryne that is like the sun: everyone who looks at her must cover up. Even Fryne must cover up from her light.

Gérôme composed a great painting. He was able to capture the most intense beauty a woman may posses. I hope you enjoy this beautiful painting as I do, one of my favorite female nude paintings ever.

If you are near Germany you can watch the painting in Hamburg Kunsthalle.


2 thoughts on “Fryne

  1. I have a friend calls Frineé (this is who she spells it). The first thing she told me when I met her was: “don’t worry, you will not remember my name the next day we see each other”. Of course I remembered it and then I discovered this unknowed story. Great painting.

  2. Is worth noting how the blinding beauty resplandor is so strong in first rows of judges and seems to dim, impressive shadow effects overall. Also the light comes from her top-right side, with her shadow pointing 2 o’clock… somewhat interesting.

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