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About the Object
Alma-Tadema is known for his historical and anecdotal scenes set in classical antiquity or medieval Europe. The Sculpture Gallery is one of a number of scenes showing patrons at an ancient art gallery or sculptor's studio. Here a slave-recognizable by the tablet hanging around his neck-displays a basin ornamented with Scylla, the mythological sea-serpent. The 19th-century collecting audience could likely identify the "Infant Hercules Struggling with a Snake," from the Capodimonti Museum in Naples at the left, and on the right, the statue of Helen, mother of Emperor Constantine, from the Capitoline museum in Rome. The Roman visitors are modelled on members of Alma-Tadema's family, including the artist's wife and children, at the center.
The artist travelled widely and visited historic sites, gaining a reputation for his accuracy in depicting ancient settings and artifacts. However, it was modern technology that helped him achieve this renown: the artist collected professional photographs of artworks and artifacts found on archaeological digs, using these images as the basis for his scenes.
[Gallery label text, 2011]