|Thamar painting the goddess Diana. From Boccaccio, Des cleres et nobles femmes, De claris mulieribus in an anonymous French translation c. 1400-25, French (Paris). Collection of the British Library, MS Royal 20 C V f. 90|
Thamar (5th century BC) was a well-known painter in ancient Greece. There are no standard spellings of names translated from ancient tongues and so you will see this same artist also referred to as Tamar, Tamara, Thamyris, Thamaris and Timarete. Her father was the painter, Micon the Younger, and she learned the painting trade from him. In those times trades and professions were traditionally kept within families. Pliny the Elder wrote of her in his famous tome Natural History (77 CE) saying, "...she scorned the duties of women, and practised her father's art." Whether or not Thamar actually scorned anything we will never know, but she was extremely good at painting and her fame lives on, although there are no known extant examples of her work. Most painting at that time was done as fresco or mural, and the majority of architectural structures of that period have been ruined by the passage of time, or demolished, or subsumed by later renovation.
This is a 15th century rendition of Thamar, which accompanies text by Bocaccio, from his book Of Noble Women written in the early 1400's. It was a runaway "best-seller" of the times! Because so many copies were made of this book there are numerous illuminations (text illustrations) of Thamar, and as was usual at the time, the artist from ancient times was dressed in the fashion of the "present" day. In this image by an unknown French artist we see Thamar painting what was probably her best-known work, a depiction of the goddess Diana. That masterwork was famous in her day and after and was long displayed in a position of reverence at the temple of Epheseus. Unfortunately, that temple was completely destroyed in 401 A.D. by a Christian mob led by St. John Chrysostom.
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