This painting, by the Dutch-British artist Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836–1912), depicts a scene of daily life from the reign of King Clovis I of the Franks (r. 481-511). His reign was vital for the ascendance of the Frankish Merovingian Dynasty, as Clovis’ many campaigns of conquests set up the Franks as the dominant power in France. In terms of his cultural impact on the Franks, Clovis was also the first monarch of the Merovingian Dynasty to accept the Roman Church rather than the traditional Germanic gods or the Arian version of Christianity that was popular among other Germanic peoples of his day. These threads of Germanic, Roman and Christian ideas and culture would become tightly intertwined in the lives of the sons of King Clovis and other future kings from his dynasty. Lawrence Alma-Tadema portrays this fusion of cultures in his painting, showing the mix of Germanic warriors and Catholic Christian clergy coming together to teach Clovis’ children in a Roman villa that the Franks had occupied.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- The History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours, translated by Lewis Thorpe. New York: Penguin Classics, 1971.