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Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema - Roses of Heliogabalus, 1888

Roses of Heliogabalus, 1888
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Artist Biography
Born in Dronryp, Holland in 1836, Lawrence Alma-Tadema completed his art studies at the Antwerp Academy before settling in London in 1870.

His output was prolific, generally of historical genre scenes, and each piece was always numbered with Roman numerals, from his very first painting to his 408th, which was painted two months before his death in 1912. His first picture painted in London was Opus LXXXVI, From An Absent One.

Alma Tadema painted Greek and Roman subjects set in scenes of remarkable archaeological and architectural accuracy. They also contained an exquisite rendering of marble, silver, gold, bronze and silks. In 1906, he was awarded the Royal Gold Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects for his promotion of architecture in painting.

Alma-Tadema's love of architecture was also reflected in his St. John's Wood home in London, which was designed in the style of a Pompeiian villa.

Knighted for his contribution to the art world, Alma Tadema was elected to the Royal Academy in 1879 and received the Order of Merit in 1905. During his lifetime, Alma Tadema was universally acknowledged for his great artistic ability and, together with Leighton, was one of the giants of Victorian society. However, his work went out of fashion soon after his death and his reputation has only recently recovered to the extent that his paintings now fetch amongst the highest prices paid for any nineteenth century artist.
About this Piece
"Roses of Heliogabalus, 1888" is one of Alma-Tadema's largest and most ambitious pictures. Responding to the contemporary fascination with decadence in the Ancient World, he represents the depraved young Emperor Heliogabalus (203-222 AD), suffocating his guests beneath a torrent of rose petals. This extraordinary historical reconstruction allows the spectator to gradually discover the cruelty hidden beneath the decorative beauty of the scene.