The Parnassus

Andrea Appiani1811

Galleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano

Galleria d'Arte Moderna - Milano
Milan, Italy

An aesthetic icon of the European Neoclassical movement and the last completed work by its creator, Appiana's "Parnaso" is framed by the lavish surroundings of the dining room in Villa Reale.
Made in 1811, following an accurate graphic and iconographic preparation, the fresco depicts, albeit in an innovative manner, the theme of Apollo surrounded by the muses on Mount Parnassus, which had already been depicted by Raphael in the "Stanza della Segnatura" and by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728–79) in Villa Albani in Rome. In comparison to the latter work, Appiani's piece demonstrates a greater flexibility and compositional complexity, as can be seen in the classically nude figure of Apollo playing at its center. The refined choice of iconography depicted in this piece, which was commissioned by Viceroy Eugène de Beauharnais, was crafted at the suggestion of Luigi Lamberti, an expert in Greek culture. It is Lamberti who emphasizes how Appiani has moved closer to the spirit of ancient poetry when compared to the work of Raphael and, to a greater extent, Mengs' more recent depiction. He created an even more fitting representation than those of the venerated Greco-Roman sculptors, who had always depicted the 9 muses as isolated from one another, each separated into their own figurative space and removed from their leader, Apollo: "The esteemed painter has not only removed anything that could be viewed as alien from the picture, but has oriented all of the elements that comprise it towards a single direction. Apollo is depicted at the center, seated on a throne; this is the central figure of the painting." The motif of the richly decorated zither played by the deity reveals an awareness of Marcantonio Raimondi's print from the first design of Raphael's "The Parnassus," which, in the final fresco, is replaced with a violin, a more modern instrument—a decision that Lamberti was not happy with. The innovations then are found in the depiction of the muses, which draws from complex erudite references to ancient statuary and classical texts, but, at the same time, reflect a precise study of emotions, in keeping with the Lombard tradition of Renaissance paintings.


  • Title: The Parnassus
  • Creator: Andrea Appiani
  • Creator Lifespan: 1754/1817
  • Date: 1811
  • Physical Location: Galleria d'Arte Moderna di Milano
  • property: Italy
  • Type: fresco
  • Medium: Fresco

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