Diotima instructing Socrates

As you surely know, the great French artist Jacques-Louis David painted the very famous Death Of Socrates, along with many other brilliant neo-classical works.  


What is less well known is that at one point he thought about painting Diotima Instructing Socrates.  He made a sketch, which is now held by the National Gallery of Art in Washington.  Apparently the sketch isn't on display, but here it is, linked from their web site: 


So that's two of my three main characters.

Thanks to Jason Rehmus, who is @longstride on twitter, for tracking this down.

17 comments:

Sarah W said...

How beautiful!

When did the real Socrates meet Diotima? Was he as young as twelve, or older?

Gary Corby said...

Nobody knows when they met, Sarah, and David's clearly produced a different age differential to me, but it's certain that Diotima was one of the teachers of Socrates, because Socrates said so himself, as reported by Plato.

Very little is known about the real Diotima, but I'll do a blog post. It's on the way...

Stephanie Thornton said...

I was about to get angry that I missed that while in D.C., but I can relax since it's not on display.

There are relatively few famous Greek women- go Diotima! (You already know she was one of my favorites in The Pericles Commission).

Botanist said...

That's cool, Gary. With all the research and writing you've done on that period, I wonder, do you ever get slightly possessive when you see things like that, and think "Hey, that's my character"?

Gary Corby said...

Hi Stephanie! Yes, most people seem to like Diotima. David and I seem to have a fairly common view on her personality. It looks like she's laying down the law to Socrates.

I can't help feeling Nico should be in the background, ignoring the philosophical discussion and wondering where he can get a drink.

Botanist, that's a terrific question. No, I don't feel particularly possessive. There are umpteen scholarly papers already written that speculate about Diotima and Socrates, so I hardly own them.

I guess if someone started using Diotima and Socrates as detectives I might feel differently. But in truth, I'd love it if people started writing ancient Greek novels in the same way there's been a splurge of ancient Roman. This is one of those situations where it helps everyone to make the pie bigger, rather than get a bigger slice, if that makes sense.

chiliarch said...

Now all we need is Alcibiades.......

salazarbooks.com said...

Hi Gary,

Is Socrates pretending to shoot Diotima?

Seth

Gary Corby said...

Chiliarch, yep, but in my story time Alcibiades probably isn't even born yet. If Nico and Diotima survive the next 20 years, I expect he'll become a "person of interest", as they say in investigator speak.

I like your online name, by the way. So either you command a thousand men, or I guess you're in charge of chilis?

Gary Corby said...

Hi Seth!

It's definitely a first draft. I imagine Socrates' hand would have been moved.

I was wondering if Diotima was going to whack him with that stick.

Trisha Leigh said...

This is lovely. I can't wait to read more about the real Diotoma. Get one that, mmmkay? :)

chiliarch said...

You are right about Alcibiades not having been born at this time but as he was a very enterprising person, even as a child, I am sure you will be able to fit him in sometime in the future. If only to spice up the story. And then there’s the mystery of the mutilation of the herms. Something for Nico and Diotima to sink their teeth into.

My nom de guerre has been with me for some years now; I like it and its ancient Greek feel. Nothing to do with chilis, I'm afraid :-)

I have enjoyed the Pericles Commission tremendously and am very much looking forward to the Ionia Sanction, being a great fan of fiction set in Ancient Greece.

Gary Corby said...

As it happens, I've written a story, unpublished, which explains the truth about the mutilation of the Hermae, and Alcibiades does have something to do with it.

chiliarch said...

How exciting! I would love to read it. When will it be published?

Gary Corby said...

You shouldn't hold your breath, I'm afraid. If it appears as part of the Nico & Diotima cycle, then they have most of their careers to get through first. I can't do stories out of order! I might be able to release it as a short story. Let me think about that...

Gary Corby said...

Forgot to say, chiliarch, thanks for your kind words about the book!

chiliarch said...

I quite understand about the order of your stories, its just that I so want to hear your theory on the mutilation of the herms.

Gary Corby said...

Ahh, it was all part of a larger and much more complex crime. (Of course. Could it have been anything else?)