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Italian, Venetian, The Story of Cimon and Efigenia

Key facts
Full title The Story of Cimon and Efigenia
Artist Italian, Venetian
Date made 16th century
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 67.9 × 120 cm
Acquisition credit Sir Claude Phillips Bequest, 1924
Inventory number NG4037
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Story of Cimon and Efigenia
Italian, Venetian

Although this panel has been cut down on the left-hand side, its original size and shape suggests that it was probably made to decorate a piece of furniture, perhaps for a bedchamber. It is in the style of Palma Vecchio, although it has suffered much damage.

The painting depicts an episode from the story of Cimon and Efigenia, as told in Boccaccio’s Decameron, published in 1353. Despite being son of the King of Cyprus, Cimon was coarse and uneducated, and was sent away by his family to live and work on their farmlands. One day, while walking through meadows, he came across a sleeping lady with her handmaidens. Touched by her beauty, as Cimon fell in love with the sleeping Efigenia his heart opened to all of the virtues he had been lacking before, and he was transformed into a noble and worthy soul.

We, like Cimon, voyeuristically observe Efigenia’s beauty as she sleeps beside her watchful handmaiden in a copse beyond the walls of the distant shoreside city.

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