In Venus Rising from the Sea, Raphaelle Peale created the illusion of a cloth hiding a bathing woman. Technical examination, however, reveals that her body does not continue underneath the linen. The visible figural elements add to the deception. They were derived not from life, but from a print of an earlier canvas by the Englishman James Barry.
Peale's deception draws on the ancient Roman author Pliny's account of a competition between two Greeks to determine the better artist. While Zeuxis painted grapes so convincingly that birds pecked at them, Parrhasios painted a curtain so realistically that it tricked his fellow artist. Peale's design also alludes to the contemporary practice of covering paintings of nudes, one that he deemed ridiculous though his father Charles Willson Peale found it prudent.
clothvenusamericanoil on canvas