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Panaenus (gr. Panainos), a distinguished Athenian painter, who flourished, according to Pliny, in the 83rd Olympiad, 448 BC (H. N. xxxv. 8. s. 4). He was the nephew of Pheidias (adelphidous, Strab. viii. p. 354; adelphos, Paus. v. 11. § 2 ; frater, i. e. frater patruelis, Plin. l.e. and xxxvi. 23. s. 55), whom he assisted in decorating the temple of Zeus, at Olympia; and it is said to have been in answer to a question of his that Pheidias made his celebrated declaration that Homer's description of the nod of Zeus (Il. i. 528) gave him the idea of his statue of the god. With regard to the works of Panaenus in the temple at Olympia, Strabo (l. c.) tells us that he assisted Pheidias in the execution of his statue of Zeus, by ornamenting it with colours, and especially the drapery ; and that many admirable paintings of his were shown around the temple (peri to hieron), by which, as Böttiger has pointed out (Arch. d. Malerei, p. 245), we must understand the paintings on the sides of the elevated base of the statue, which are described by Pausanias (v. 11). This author tells us that the sides of the front of this base were simply painted dark blue, but that the other sides were adorned with paintings of Panaenus, which represented the following subjects :--Atlas sustaining heaven and earth, with Heracles standing by, ready to relieve him of the burden; Theseus and Peirithoüs ; Hellas and Salamis, the latter holding in her hand the ornamented prow of a ship; the contest of Heracles with the Nemean lion; Ajax insulting Cassandra; Hiippodameia, the daughter of Oenomaus, with her mother; Prometheus, still bound, with Hercules about to release him; Penthesileia expiring, and Hercules sustaining her ; and two of the Hesperides, carrying the apples, which were entrusted to them to guard.

Another great work by Panaenus was his painting of the battle of Marathon, in the Poecile at Athens (Paus. l. c.); respecting which Pliny says that the use of colours had advanced so far, and the art had been brought to such perfection, that Panaenus was said to have introduced portraits of the generals (iconicos duces), namely, Miltiades, Callimachus, and Cynaegeirus, on the side of the Athenians, and Datis and Artaphernes, on that of the barbarians (H. N. xxxv. 8. s. 34). Pausanias gives a fuller description of this picture, but without mentioning the artist's name (i. 15). He says that the last of the paintings in the Poecile represented those who fought at Marathon: "the Athenians, assisted by the Plataeans, join battle with the barbarians; and in this part (of the picture) both parties maintain an equality in the conflict; but, further on in the battle, the barbarians are fleeing, and pushing one another into the marsh: but last in the painting are the Phoenicians' ships, and the Greeks slaying the barbarians as they rush on board of them. There also is painted the hero Marathon, from whom the plain is named, and Theseus, like one ascending out of the earth, and Athena and Heracles." He then mentions the polemarch Callimachus, Miltiades, and the hero Echetlus, as the most conspicuous persons in the battle.

Böttiger (Arch. d. Malerei, p. 249) infers from this description, compared with Himerius (Orat. x. p. 564, Wernsdorf), that the picture was in four compartments, representing separate periods of the battle: in the first, nearest the land, appear Marathon and Theseus, Heracles and Athena; in the next the battle is joined, Miltiades is conspicuous as the leader of the Athenians, and neither party has yet the advantage; in the third we have the rout of the Persians, with the polemarch Callimachus still fighting, but perhaps receiving his deathblow (polemounti mallon eoikôs ê tethneôti, Himer.; comp. Herod. vi. 14); and here, too, Böttiger places the hero Echetlus, slaying the flying enemies with his ploughshare : in the fourth the final contest at the ships; and here was undoubtedly the portrait of Cynaegeirus, laying hold of the prow of a ship (Herod. vi. 114). But it seems to us much better to view the whole as one picture, in which the three successive stages of the battle are represented by their positions, and not by any actual division, the necessary transition from one part to the other being left to the imagination of the spectator, as is not uncommon in modern battle pieces. Indeed Böttiger himself seems to have had this idea in his mind; and we can hardly understand how the writer, who sees so clearly that the scene of battle is marked by the land at one end, and the sea at the other, and who assigns so accurately to each of the three leaders their proper places in the picture, should at the same time think of cutting up the work into four tableaur, and imagine that "the same figures (i. e. of the chieftains) were probably exhibited in other divisions of the picture." Böttiger's notion of placing Marathon and Theseus, Heracles and Athena, in a separate tableau, seems to us also quite arbitrary. Pausanias says entautha kai,, that is, in the picture. These deities and heroes no doubt occupied, like the chieftains, their proper places in the picture, although we cannot easily assign those places: this Böttiger himself has seen in the case of Echetlus; and the apparition of Theseus rising out of the earth would no doubt be connected with the opening of the battle.

Another question arises, how the individual chieftains were identified. The expression of Pliny, iconicos duces, can hardly be accepted in the sense of actual likenesses of the chieftains; for, to say nothing of the difficulty of taking likenesses of the Persian chieftains, the time at which Panaenus lived excludes the supposition that he could have taken original portraits of Miltiades and the other leaders, nor have we any reason to believe that the art of portrait painting was so far advanced in their time, as that Panaenus could have had portraits of them to copy from. The true meaning seems to be that this was one of the earliest pictures in which an artist rejected the ancient plan (which we still see on vases, mirrors, &c.) of affixing to his figures the names of the persons they were intended to represent, and yet succeeded in indicating who they were by some other method, such as by an exact imitation of their arms and dresses (which may very probably have been preserved), or by the representation of their positions and their well-known exploits. This explanation is confirmed by the passages already cited respecting Callimachus and Cynaegeirus, and still more strikingly by a passage of Aeschines (e. Ctes. p. 437), who tells us that Miltiades requested the people that his name might be inscribed on this picture, but they refused his request, and, instead of inserting his name, only granted him the privilege of being painted standing first and exhorting the soldiers. (Comp. Nepos, Milt. 6.) We learn from an allusion in Persius (iii. 53) that the Medes were represented in their proper costume. Some writers ascribe parts of this picture to Micon and Polygnotus, but it was most probably the work of Panaenus alone. (Böttiger, Arch. d. Malerei, p. 251).

Pliny, moreover, states that Panaenus painted the roof of the temple of Athena at Elis with a mixture of milk and saffron, and also that he painted the shield of the statue of the goddess, made by Colotes, in the same temple. (Plin. ll. cc.; Böttiger, Arch. d. Malterei, p. 243.)

During the time of Panaenus, contests for prizes in painting were established at Corinth and Delphi. that is, in the Isthiiiian and Pythian games, and Panaenus himself was the first who engaged in one of these contests, his antagonist being Timagoras of Chalcis, who defeated Panaenus at the Pythian games, and celebrated his victory in a poem. (Plin. H. N. xxxv. 9. s. 35.)

Panaenus has been called the Cimabue of ancient painting (Böttiger. l. c. p. 242), but the title is very inappropriate, as he had already been preceded by Polygnotus, Micon, and Dionysius of Colophon, who, though his contemporaries, were considerably older than him.

His name is variously spelt in the MSS. Panaios, Panainos, and Pantainos, and Panainos is the true reading. (See Siebenkees, ad Strab. vol. iii. p. 129.)


  • Brian E. McConnell, The Paintings of Panainos at Olympia: What Did Pausanias See?, in: Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 88, 1984, S. 159-164

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