Joy of Museums Virtual Tours

Virtual Tours of Museums, Art Galleries, and Historic Sites

“Phryne before the Areopagus” by Jean-Léon Gérôme

"Phryne before the Areopagus" by Jean-Léon Gérôme

“Phryne before the Areopagus” by Jean-Léon Gérôme

“Phryne before the Areopagus” by Jean-Léon Gérôme depicts Phryne, a legendary courtesan in ancient Greece who was put on trial for impiety.

The speech from the prosecutor seemed to be successfully influencing the verdict to an unfavorable outcome for Phryne.

As a last resort, her defender, the famous orator Hypereides, removed Phryne’s robes to bare her breasts and beauty before the judges aroused their pity and turned the tide of opinion.

Phryne’s beauty caused the judges to adopt a superstitious fear that they could not bring themselves to condemn “a prophetess and priestess of Aphrodite” to death.

They decided to acquit her out of pity and fear of retribution from the gods that gave Phryne her beauty. The trial of Phryne has inspired many works of art.

Phryne was born about 371 BC in Boeotia but lived in Athens. There are many anecdotes about her, and she was highly praised for her beauty and achieved wealth.

It was written that on the occasion of specific religious festivals, she would let down her hair and step naked into the sea.

Supposedly the sculptor Praxiteles, who was her lover, used her as the model for the statue of the Aphrodite of Knidos, the first nude statue of a woman from ancient Greece.

Jean-Léon Gérôme

Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824 – 1904) was a French painter and sculptor, and his body of work includes historical paintings, Greek Mythology, Orientalism, and portraits in the academic painting tradition.

Academic Art

Academic art is a style of painting, sculpture, and architecture produced under European academies of art. 

Academies using the French model formed throughout Europe and imitated the teachings and styles of the French Académie.

From England, with the Royal Academy to Denmark with its Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, founded in 1754, European society was saturated with academic art by the end of the 19th century.

Phryne before the Areopagus

  • Title:                  Phryne before the Areopagus
  • French:              Phryne devant l’Areopage
  • Artist:                Jean-Léon Gérôme
  • Year:                 1861
  • Type:                 Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:      80.5 cm × 128 cm (31.7 in × 50 in)
  • Museum:           Kunsthalle Hamburg

Jean-Léon Gérôme

Explore Germany’s Museums

Berlin Museums

Munich Museums

Hamburg Museums

Phryne Areopagus


“Every artist was first an amateur.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson


Photo Credit: 1) Jean-Léon Gérôme [Public domain]

Popular this Week

Museums, Art Galleries & Historical Sites - Virtual Tours
Japanese Proverbs, Quotes, and Sayings
Greek Proverbs, Quotes, and Sayings
Korean Proverbs, Quotes, and Sayings
Ancient Egyptian Art and Artifacts - Virtual Tour
"The Martyr of Solway" by John Everett Millais
Complaint Tablet To Ea-Nasir - World's Oldest Complaint Letter
Australian Aboriginal Sayings and Quotes
Indian Proverbs, Quotes, and Sayings
Turkish Proverbs, Quotes, and Sayings