A painting of Sappho by Ettore Forti, Italian, Late 19th Century

By Forti, Ettore (Italian, fl. 1880-1920)


This elegant portrait painting of Sappho, the well-known Greek poet and musician, is by Ettore Forti, a celebrated and widely loved Italian painter.


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This wonderful late 19th/early 20th century Italian oil-on-canvas painting by Ettore Forti depicts Sappho, the famous Ancient Greek lyric poet and musician. Sappho, who came from the island of Lesbos, or Mytilene, in the North East Aegean, was an acclaimed poet in antiquity and has become an iconic cultural figure in modern times; although her poetry only survives in fragmentary form, she has remained a popular figure ever since the sixth century BC. 

In this work Forti has placed her in a grand Classical setting, on temple steps, with a large, life-size marble frieze with horses and cavalry behind her. She is shown standing, in a long red-dress, holding a kithara, with flowers strewn before her feet. Forti, a prolific painter of highly detailed genre and Classical scenes, was active for rougly two decades around the turn of the twentieth century, and his work is often likened to that of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, the much-admired Victorian painter who worked in a similar manner. Set in this grand setting, and whistfully playing apparently to no one but the viewer, we are left in no doubt as to the identity of this beautifully painted figure.

The work is set in a giltwood frame, and is signed in the lower right, 'E Forti / Roma.'

Frame: Height 85cm, width 38cm, depth 2.5cm
Canvas: Height 73cm, with 26.5cm, depth 2.5cm


Sotheby's New York sale 26 May 1993, Lot 322


Artist / Maker
By Forti, Ettore (Italian, fl. 1880-1920)
Country of Origin
Date of Manufacture
Late 19th Century
Academic, Classical, Figurative Art, Old Master, Victorian
Oil on Canvas


85 cm / 33.5 inches
38 cm / 15 inches
2.5 cm / 0.8 inches


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