HumanitiesWeb.org - "The Roses of Heliogabalus" by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema [Selected Works]
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The Roses of Heliogabalus

1888: private collection

This painting was inspired by Heliogabalus (or Elagabalus) a Roman emperor of the 3rd century. Most decadent of all the emperors (seen in copper silk), legend has it that he once staged an orgy in which the participants were smothered to death in a cascade of rose petals. This painting depicts the decorously garbed women, floundering in the petals while the emperor dispassionately toasts their fate.

Alma-Tadema had fresh roses brought in from France every week so that every one of the (more than 2,000) petals could be accurately depicted.

 
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