Sir Edward Poynter, 1836-1919
A Visit to Aesculapius, 1880, oil on canvas, 151,1x228,6 cm
TheTate Gallery, London Inv. N01586
Aesculapius was the Greek god of healing and medicine, and is symbolised by a snake curled around a staff. In a scene taken from a poem by the Elizabethan Thomas Watson, Poynter shows him being consulted by Venus who has a thorn in her foot. Venus is identified by the doves, which are her attributes, and she is accompanied by her handmaidens, the three Graces, who are the personification of grace and beauty. Poynter posed them in the traditional Classical manner, with two of the Graces facing the viewer, while one turns her back. The resulting frieze of figures creates a subtle and elegant rhythm across the composition.