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Battista Franco (ca. 1510–1561)
Ceiling Design with the Story of the Slave Girls of Smyrna, ca. 1548
Pen and brown ink, brown wash; on a mount made for the Dukes of Devonshire, Chatsworth House
Inscribed above or below each scene, in pen and brown ink, with descriptions of the episodes depicted
14 3/4 x 9 7/8 (375 x 252 mm.)
Purchased as a gift of the Fellows, 1984; 1984.30
See CORSAIR catalog record for this item »

Seven episodes recount the victory, through female initiative, of the ancient city of Smyrna over the inhabitants of Sardis. When the Sardians offered to end their siege in return for the wives of Smyrna (1), a beautiful slave girl proposed that she and her companions go instead (2). The girls dressed the part and were welcomed by the Sardians (3, 4), who were later taken prisoner when they were overcome by sleep (5) and held captive in Smyrna (6). From then on a festival to Venus was held every year in honor of the slave girls and their victory (7).

The drawing may have served as the design for the decoration of a villa.

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Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.