Sydney Herbert aimed to delight his audience with this kind of captivating pseudo-historical paintings, just like the 20th century directors of big-budget, American Peplum movies did with their impressive, bombastic sets of “Quo Vadis”, “Ben-Hur” or “Cleopatra”.
About Sydney Herbert
Worcestershire 1854 – 1914
Landscape painter, best-known for his few imaginative historical representations of Antique subjects.
Sydney Herbert studied in the 1880's at the Royal Academy Schools, where he won two Silver Medals, and he exhibited one painting at the Royal Academy in London in 1900.
He also exhibited at the Suffolk Street Gallery of the Royal Society of British Artists (8 paintings from 1880-1900), the Royal Society of Painters in Oils, and the New Gallery.
The Royal Academy of Arts Archive holds a letter from Frederic Leighton from 1889 to our painter about Herbert’s question for collectors in Gloucestershire.
The Gettry Library in Los Angeles holds 12 letters by Herbert to H.S. Shenstone, circa 1875 – 1886, about antiquarian interests and about Herbert's work as a landscape and historical painter. These letters are illustrated with sketches of Egyptian artifacts, Italian and English landscapes, and ancient architecture (including a reconstruction of the interior of the Temple of Diana at Ephesus.) One sheet has two poems: “Tivoli” and “Selinus-Sicily”.
About our painting
Herbert was a rather average landscape painter, who produced just a few very original historicizing scenes: very personal visions of Antique cultures.
Our painting seems to have been his most incredible invention, inspired by the ancient Near Eastern arts of Egypt, Babylon, Assyria and Persia.
Our painter did not even attempt to copy meticulously what he had seen at the British Museum or in books and engravings. Just as John Martin, who accidently died the very year that Herbert was born, he created his own epic view of these Antique cultures. In this way our painting announces the visual splendour of the vast sets of the big-budget Holywood movies of D.W. Griffith, such as “Intolerance” from 1916, and the sword-and-sandal movies from the late 1950s and the 1960s.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is such an ingenious, heroic composition, a grandiose mishmash of elements that vaguely remind of Alexandria, Babylon, Persepolis, Khorsabad and Nineveh.