The Story of Papirius

This unusual subject has recently been identified as the story of the boy Papirius, who accompanied his father to the senate, and was sworn to secrecy concerning the debate. Questioned by his mother (left), he claimed they had discussed whether it would be better for men to have two wives, or women two husbands. The next day, she rallied the matrons of Rome to petition the senate that women might have two husbands.The senators were astonished and outraged until Papirius intervened to unravel the mystery (centre).

The jovial classical subject is of a kind favoured for the decoration of domestic interiors in the Renaissance period. Beccafumi included many identifiable Roman monuments among which are the Colosseum (centre) and Castel Sant' Angelo (right).

Key facts

Artist dates
1484 - 1551
Full title
The Story of Papirius
Date made
mid 1520s
Medium and support
Oil on wood
74 x 137.8 cm
Acquisition credit
Presented by George Salting, 1894
Inventory number
Location in Gallery