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L’Aurore parait les Grecs livrent la bataille de Salamine

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CAT 2. Etienne Achille Réveil after John Flaxman. L’Aurore parait les Grecs livrent la bataille de Salamine. Plate 28 in Tragédies d’Eschyle illustrating Act 2 in Les Perses. Paris: 1833. Melville Memorial Room, Berkshire Athenaeum.

Flaxman’s image of Aurora appearing before the Greeks at Salamis draws upon a brief reference to daybreak on the day of battle in Aeschylus’s text: “The morn, all beauteous to behold, / Drawn by white steeds bounds o’er the enlighten’d earth” (lines 402-3 in the Potter translation owned by Melville, p. 322). The clarity and purity with which Flaxman depicts the “white steeds” shows the meticulous attention he had given to those horses depicted in the Ancient Greek coins, vases, and reliefs he had studied when resident in Rome. By adding Aurora and her attendants to Aeschylus’s word-picture, he created a welcome opportunity for gracefully depicting the female form in antique dress. In “The Frieze” section of his poem “The Parthenon,” Melville presents his own graceful combination of Grecian “horses gay” and Grecian “virgins meekly bright” (NN PP 303). In Mardi he had created his own word-picture of a sunrise with a “Persian air”: “And see! amid the blaze of banners, and the pawings of ten thousand thousand golden hoofs, day’s mounted Sultan, Xerxes-like, moves on” (NN M 484).