Benjamin West PRA, Cicero Discovering the Tomb of Archimedes

Cicero Discovering the Tomb of Archimedes, by 1797?

Benjamin West PRA (1738 - 1820)

RA Collection: Art

This outline drawing depicting the Roman philosopher Cicero's discovery of the grave of the celebrated mathematician Archimedes, near Syracuse in Sicily, is a preparatory sketch for the first of West's two versions of the composition, produced in 1797. The painting was one of the works in which he used the notorious 'Venetian Secret', a fake manuscript touted as a record of the painting and colour-mixing techniques used by Titian and other Venetian Renaissance masters.

Thomas Provis and his daughter Ann, a miniaturist, had convinced West and a number of high-profile Royal Academicians that the manuscript was genuine, persuading them to pay a subscription to see it. The hoax was exposed shortly after West exhibited Cicero Discovering the Tomb of Archimedes, and his second version of the same scene, painted in 1804, can be seen as an 'atonement' painting. West was particularly susceptible to this scam because the colouring of his work had often been criticised.

Object details

Cicero Discovering the Tomb of Archimedes
Benjamin West PRA (1738 - 1820)
by 1797?
Object type
Pen and ink with wash over pencil on laid paper

440 mm x 712 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
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