The Roses of Heliogabalus, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema
This beautiful 19th century work, ‘The Roses of Heliogabalus,’ was painted in 1888 by Dutch artist Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912). The painting depicts a banquet held by the eccentric Roman emperor Elagabalus (Heliogabalus).
A scene of death, actually…
This story comes from the ‘Augustan History,’ in which Elagabalus smothers his guests with petals released from above. While it looks like a beautiful scene, some of his guests are supposedly smothered to death, buried under the weight and unable to escape. The story being told contrasts with the rather indifferent expressions of those in the painting. I find that the tale of death being told isn’t even the most stirring aspect to this painting; instead it’s the sheer amount of effort Alma-Tadema had to put into it in order to create the many, many details.
In order to get the right likeness of the colossal amount of petals, Lawrence Alma-Tadema had to have roses sent to him in the United Kingdom, from France! Roses were out of season as he painted this piece, so Alma-Tadema was required to continue ordering rose petals each week for months.
The painting currently belongs in the collection of businessman and art collector Juan Antonio Pérez Simón. Pérez Simón has an enormous collection of paintings of many famous artists.
- Alma-Tadema, T. (1888). The Roses of Heliogabalus. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Roses_of_Heliogabalus.jpg
- Morton, E. (2016). Object of Intrigue: The Roses of Heliogabalus. Retrieved from: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/object-of-intrigue-roses-of-heliogabalus