This painting, by the Italian artist Dosso Dossi (c. 1512 – 1542), was loosely inspired by a section from a poem called The Aeneid, written by the Roman poet Virgil (c. 70-19 BCE). Virgil’s poem tells the story of Trojan refugees, led by the hero Aeneas, who eventually resettled in Italy after being defeated in the Trojan War. Aeneas and his followers made a few stops along the way during their Italian-bound Mediterranean journey. Dosso Dossi, in particular, drew inspiration for the above artwork from a short scene in which Aeneas and his entourage took a brief rest on the Libyan coast, before heading on to the realm of Queen Dido in Carthage. Virgil wrote:
“So, concealing his ships
in the sheltered woody narrows overarched by rocks
and screened around by trees and trembling shade,
Aeneas moves out, with only Achates at his side,
two steel-tipped javelins balanced in his grip.”
(Virgil, The Aeneid, 1.374-378).
Such is the passage that provided the framework for Dosso Dossi’s painting. The details of the people and scenery featured in the artwork, however, seem to be from a time closer to the artist’s own age, rather than the wardrobe and architecture of the ancient world. Nevertheless, the title of the artwork remains “Aeneas and Achates on the Libyan Coast.”
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- The Aeneid by Virgil, translated by Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006.