Prosper d’ Epinay, 1895
Inspired by Ovid’s Heroic Epistle XV: Sappho to Phaon, Prosper d’ Epinay created the figure Sappho in 1895. The poem written by Ovid presents the abandoned Sappho and her feelings toward her lost lover, Phaon, in a letter. It is apparent that she had her heart broken and wished more than anything that she could be back with her love. There are numerous characteristics of Epinay’s Sappho that express the grief and longing of the Ancient Greek woman captured in this piece of marble sculpture.
First of all, it is important to consider the overall shape and placement of the figure. The marble sculpture is located on a very large, rectangular base. Sappho, the larger than life woman subject of the piece, is seated in a very reclined and slouched position. The overall size of the figure is what caught my eye first. This woman is very, very large. If she were to stand up, she would tower over average sized men. She is not facing exactly straight ahead in the chair, but rather pointed more to her left. Her gaze follows the position of her body and is aimed down and to the left. One of her legs is somewhat folded beneath the chair she is sitting on, while the other leg is outstretched. Her head is hanging down and one of her arms is hanging at her side grasping a lyre. The other arm is resting on the chair back. These observations are very simple and obvious, yet the main ideas of what the artist was trying to convey can already be found. It is plain to see that the subject is seated in anguish. Sappho’s slumped pose expresses her pain. Epinay has recognized that a hanging and drooped head coupled with an outstretched leg takes all the life out of the figure.
The figure shapes into a triangular form from the foot of her outstretched leg along the base, then up the chair back, and back along the diagonal of her leg to her foot. When looking at the figure and its triangular shape, one can easily pick out the dominant lines. There is the...