Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
“My Sister Is Not In” (1879)
Oil on panel
Located in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Alma-Tadema was born in Friesland, Netherlands, but was trained in Belgium. After the death of his first wife in 1870, he moved to London where he developed a reputation for his seemingly accurate reconstructions of genre scenes set in ancient Rome. Here, a Roman maiden closes a curtain in an unconvincing attempt to conceal her sister from a suitor.

“The Roses of Heliogabalus” (detail) (1888) by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912).

A Priestess of Apollo, c.1888, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

In Greco-Roman mythology, Apollo was the sun god who lived on Mount Olympus, and who, in the guise of the sun, rode his chariot drawn by four horses across the sky each day. In this painting one of the priestesses stands barefoot inside the temple of Apollo looking up towards the sky, perhaps awaiting Apollo’s return in the evening. She wears a spectacular leopard skin tunic and has a wreath of ivy in her hair. These symbolic ornaments, as well as her business in serving wine, suggest her licentious behaviour in the temple.