Catullus comforting Lesbia over the Death of her Pet Sparrow and writing an Ode
Antonio Zucchi, RA (Venice 1726 – Rome 1796)
Oil painting on canvas (circular), Catullus comforting Lesbia over the Death of her Pet Sparrow and writing an Ode, by Antonio Zucchi, RA (Venice 1726 – Rome 1796), circa 1773. One of a pair of circular overmirror paintings of classical subjects. The Roman poet Catullus was born around 84 BC to a wealthy family from Verona but he soon settled into the fashionably elegant and educated circles in Rome and fell in love with a rich married woman, Clodia, whom he refers to as 'Lesbia' in many of his poems. He is writing the peome: Lugete, o Veneres Cupidinesque, et quantum est hominum venustiorum: passer mortuus est meae puellae, passer, deliciae meae puellae, quem plus illa oculis suis amabat. nam mellitus erat suamque norat ipsam tam bene quam puella matrem, nec sese a gremio illius movebat, sed circumsiliens modo huc modo illuc ad solam dominam usque pipiabat. qui nunc it per iter tenebricosum illuc, unde negant redire quemquam. at vobis male sit, malae tenebrae Orci, quae omnia bella devoratis: tam bellum mihi passerem abstulistis o factum male! o miselle passer! tua nunc opera meae puellae flendo turgiduli rubent ocelli. [Mourn, Oh Venuses and Cupids And all the company of more loving men! The Sparrow of my girl has died, the sparrow, the delight of my girl, Whom that girl loved more than her own eyes. For it was honey sweet and it knew its own mistress just as well as a girl her mother, and did not move itself from that girl's lap, but jumping around at one time here, at another time there, it used to constantly chirp to its mistress alone. He now goes along that dark road to that place from where they say nobody returns. but may things be bad for you, wicked shades of Orcus, who devour all beautiful things: so beautiful a sparrow you have taken from me, Oh evil deed! Oh unfortunate little sparrow! now thanks to your effort the swollen little eyes of my girl are red from her crying].
Commissioned from Antonio Zucchi by Sir Rowland Winn, 5th Bt. (1739-1785); thence by descent; accepted in lieu of tax by H M Treasury and transferred to the National Trust in 1986.
Makers and roles
Antonio Zucchi, RA (Venice 1726 – Rome 1796), artist
Sands 2011: Frances Sands, 'The Art of Collaboration: Antonio Zucchi at Nostell Priory', The Georgian Group Journal, vol.XIX, 2011, pp.106-119