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Excerpts from Pliny's, Natural History, XXXV, 79ff (translation by H. Rackham, Loeb Classics)
But it was Apelles of Cos who surpassed all the painters that preceded and all who were to come after him; he dates in the 112 th Olympiad [332-329 B.C.]. He singly contributed almost more to painting than all other artists put together, also publishing volumes containing the principles of painting. His art was unrivalled for graceful charm, although other very great painters were his contemporaries. Although he admired their works and gave high praise to all of them, he used to say that they lacked the glamour that his work possessed, the quality denoted by the Greek workd charis, and that although they had every other merit, in that alone no one was his rival. He also asserted another claim to distinction when he expressed his admiration for the immensely laborious and infinitely meticulous work of Protogenes; for he said that in all respects his achievements and those of Protogenes were on a level, or those of Protogenes were superior, but that in one respect he stood higher, that he knew when to take his hand away from a picture --a noteworthy warning of the frequently evil effects of excessive diligence. The candour of Apelles was however equal to his artistic skill: he used to acknowledge his inferiority to Melanthius in grouping, and to Asclepiodorus in nicety of measurement, that is in the proper space to be left between one object and another.
81 A clever incident took place between Protogenes and Apelles. Protogenes lived at Rhodes, and Apelles made the voyage there from a desire to make himself acquainted with Protogenes's works, as that artist was hitherto only known to him by reputation. He went at once to his studio. The artist was not there but there was a panel of considerable size on the easel prepared for painting, which was in the charge of a single old woman. In answer to his enquiry, she told him that Protogenes was not at home, and asked who it was she should report as having wised to see him. 'Say it was this person,' said Apelles, and taking up a brush he painted in colour across the panel and extremely fine line; and when Protogenes returned the old woman showed him what had taken place. The story goes that the artist, after looking closely at the finish of this, said that the new arrival was Apelles, as so perfect a piece of work tallied with nobody else; and he himself, using another colour, drew a still fine line exactly on the top of the first one, and leaving the room told the attendant to show it to the visitor if he returned and add that this was the person he was in search of; and so it happened; for Apelles came back, and, ashamed to be beaten, cut the lines with another in a third colour, leaving no room for any further display of minute work. Hereupon Protogenes admitted he was defeated, and flew down to the harbour to look for the visitor; and he decided that the panel should be handed on to posterity as it was, to be admired as a marvel by everybody, but particularly by artists. I am informed that it was burnt in the first fire which occurred in Caesar's palace on the Palatine; it had been previously much admired by us, on its vast surface containing nothing else than the almost invisible lines, os that among the outstanding works of many artists it looked like a blank space, and by that very fact attracted attention and was more esteemed than any masterpiece.
84 Moreover it was a regular custom with Apelles never to let a day of business to be so fully occupied that he did not practise his art by drawing a line which has passed from him into a proverb. Another habit of his was when he had finished his works to place them in a gallery in the view of passers by, and he himself stood out of sight behind the picture and listened to hear what faults were noticed, rating the public as a more obervant critic than himself. And it is said that he was found fault with by a shoemaker because in drawing a subject's sandals he had represented the loops in them as one too few, and the next day the same critic was so proud of the artist's correcting the fault indicated by his previous objection that he found fault with the leg, but Apelles indignantly looked out from behind the picture and rebuked him, saying that a shoemaker in his criticism must not go beyon the sandal--a remark that has also passed into a proverb. 85 In fact he also possessed great courtesy of manners, which made him more agreeable to Alexander the Great, who frequently visited his studio --for, as we have said, Alexander had published an edict forbidding any other artists to paint his portrait; but in the studio Alexander used to talk a great deal about painting without any real knowledge of it, and Apelles would politely advise him to drop the subject, saying that the boys engaged in grinding the colours were laughin at him: so much power hid his authority exercise over a King who was otherwise of an irascible temper. And yet Alexander conferred honour on him in a most conspicuous instance; he had such an admiration for the beauty of his favourite mistress, named Pancaspe, that he gave orders that she should be painted in the nude by Apelles, and then discovering that the artist while executing the commission had fallen in love with the woman, he presented her to him, great-minded as he was and still greater owing to his control of himself, and of a greatness proved by this action as much as by any other victory: because he conquered himself, and presented not only his bedmate but his affection also to the artist, and was not even influenced by regard for the feelings of his favourite in having been recently the mistress of a monarch and now belonged to a painter. Some persons believe that she was the model from wich the Aphrodite Anadyomene (Rising from the Sea) was painted. It was Apelles also who, kindly among his rivals, first established the reputation of Protogenes at Rhodes. Protogenes was held in low esteem by his fellow-countrymen, as is usual with home products, and, when Apelles asked him what price he set on some works he had finished, he had mentioned some small sum, but Apelles made himn an offer of fifty talents, and spread it about that he was buying them with the intention of selling them as works of his own. This device aroused the people of Rhodes to appreciate the artist, and Apelles only parted with the pictures to them at an enhanced price.