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The physician Erasistratus discovers the love of Antiochus for Stratonice
By: Valentine Green
After: Benjamin West
Style: Mezzotint
Date: 1776
Dimensions: 66. 4 x 50. 3 cm

Erasistratus was a celebrated physician and anatomist of antiquity. Accordingto Sir William Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biographyand Mythology (1870) he acquired this great fame through the discoveryof the disease of Antiochus the King’s eldest son. The disease transpired to be a passionate love for the King’s wife Stratonice, his mother-in-law.

This image entitled Erasistratus the Physician discovers the love of Antiochusfor Stratonice, depicts the moment of discovery. The love story appearsto have been popular in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as thereare multiple paintings of the event and several operas telling the story. The composition of the image is unusual for a medical portrait becauseit is not simply a medical portrait but a mixture of genres. It is a historypainting, a love story, and a depiction of royalty.

History painting was considered the most prestigious genre as it wasperceived to require more skill than head and shoulder portraits. There was a comparativelysmall market for history painting meaning only a minority of artists engaged in it.

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