Monday, November 2, 2015

Ancient orgy 2: Roman Orgy by Wilhelm Kotarbinski

Roman Orgy (c.1872-1887))


This splendid Alma-Tademaesque painting of a Roman orgy is by the Warsaw born artist usually known as Vasily Alexandrovich Kotarbinsky but, more properly, Wilhelm Kotarbinski (1849-1921).   Kotarbinski's father was dead against him pursuing a career as an artist but after studying in Warsaw he borrowed some money from his uncle and moved to Rome to study there.  After three years in Rome he finished his studies in St Petersburg but returned to Rome where he stayed until 1887 before settling in Kiev for the rest of his career.  Rome influenced his choice of subject and he produced a number of classical and mythical subjects, of which this is the most monumental (it measures 65 by 87 inches).  Later on, his work was looser and closer in style to that of the symbolists.   In Kiev he undertook a number of important murals, including in the city's cathedral.  He always considered himself Polish and not Russian or Ukrainian and once refused to sign a picture in Cyrillic script as a result.

This picture dates from his time in Rome but although it is dated the date is too indistinct to be made out.  He made a later copy in 1893 now in the State Russian Museum.  It's rather a chaste orgy with a little kissing and some half dressed young ladies but the execution is sumptuous.  Sadly, Kotarbinski died in poverty in Kiev while planning to return to Warsaw.

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