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Self-portrait as a Hermit

Edward Altham (Latton 1622 – Rome 1694)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

circa 1680 - 1690

Materials

Oil on canvas

Measurements

2362 x 1651 mm (93 x 65 in)

Place of origin

Rome

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Collection

Kingston Lacy Estate, Dorset (Accredited Museum)

On show at

Kingston Lacy Estate, Dorset, South West, National Trust

NT 1257111

Caption

This is a full-length portrait of the artist himself wearing hermit's habit. He was a cousin of Jerome Bankes and lived in Rome, having been received in to the Church there in 1652. His arms are crossed against his breast and his right foot rests on books with torn pages inscribed as the works of Epictetus (Epicurus), which bear the label 'Post mortem mulla voluptas' (There is no pleasure after death). He gazes upon a scroll, inscribed 'Post mortem summa voluptas' (The greatest pleasure is after death), which hangs from a branch above a pedestal, on which rests a copy of the Gospels and a skull. The pedestal is carved with a carved relief of a figure of Time devouring a statue of a classical torso (the Belvedere Torso), copied from Francois Perrier's 'One Hundred Statues Spared by the Envious Tooth of Time' (1638). These various references reveal a tremendous conflict of thought. Altham was an imitator of Salvator Rosa, by whom this picture was long thought to be by. The oil sketch of the head, also at Kingston Lacy, was painted by an unknown artist in Rome.

Summary

Oil painting on canvas, Self-portrait as a Hermit, by Edward Altham (Latton 1622 – Rome 1694), circa 1680/90. A full-length portrait, turned to left, head turned to right, wearing hermit's habit, his arms crossed on his breast, his right foot resting on books with torn pages inscribed as the works of Epictetus (Epicurus), which bear the label 'Post mortem mulla voluptas' [There is no pleasure after death]. He gazes upon a scroll, inscribed 'Post mortem summa voluptas' [The greatest pleasure is after death], which hangs from a branch above a pedestal, on which rests a copy of the Gospels and a skull. The pedestal is carved with a carved relief of a figure of Time devouring a statue of a classical torso (the Belvedere Torso), copied from François Perrier's 'One Hundred Statues Spared by the Envious Tooth of Time' (1638). Edward Altham was a cousin of Jerome Bankes, with whom he was in Italy. Altham was an imitator of Salvator Rosa, by whom this picture was long thought to be by.The oil sketch of the head, also at Kingston Lacy, was painted by an unknown artist in Rome.

Provenance

Painted in Rome after 1650, and presumably left to his cousin, John Bankes, MP (1665 - 1714); bequeathed by Ralph Bankes, 1981

Credit line

Kingston Lacy, The Bankes Collection (National Trust)

Makers and roles

Edward Altham (Latton 1622 – Rome 1694), amateur painter

References

Montagu 1990 Jennifer Montagu, "Edward Altham as a Hermit",- in England and the Continental Renaissance, 1990, pp.271-282 Scott 1995 Jonathan Scott, Salvator Rosa. His Life and Times, Yale, New Haven & London, 1995, p.218, illus p.219, pl.231

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