This painting, by Carl (or Karl) Agricola (1779–1852), presents a depiction of the enigmatic literary figure, Sappho. She was an ancient poetess from the Greek island of Lesbos who prolifically composed songs and poems during the late 7th and early 6th centuries BCE. Many of Sappho’s works contained evidence that she may have been attracted to women, and therefore her Sapphic name and her Lesbian homeland have long been associated with relationships between women. Sexuality aside, Sappho’s verses were greeted with great acclaim in ancient Greek and Roman circles, and she was considered to be rightfully ranked among the most talented poets to have ever lived in ancient Greece. In the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE, enough of Sappho’s poems were still existent to fill nine volumes in the Library of Alexandria, possibly amounting to around 9,000 lines of poetry. Time, however, has ravaged Sappho’s work—of the nine volumes of her poems known to the ancients, only around 230 poetic fragments have survived to the modern day.
- Sappho, Stung with Love: Poems and Fragments, translated and introduced by Aaron Poochigian. Penguin Classics, 2009.