Erasistratus the Physician Discovers the Love of Antiochus for Stratonice was painted in 1772, the year George III appointed Benjamin West historical painter to the king. The painting derives its subject from a legend loosely based on Greek history. West’s picture tells the story of Seleucus, the king of Syria, who has summoned the eminent Greek physician Erasistratus to diagnose a mysterious ailment afflicting his son Antiochus. After observing the prince’s behavior, the doctor concludes that Antiochus is suffering from unrequited love. West depicts the moment when Erasistratus—taking Antiochus’s pulse—discovers that Antiochus longs for his own stepmother, Stratonice. According to legend, the king gave his wife to his beloved son, saving his life.
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- Titles Erasistratus the Physician Discovers the Love of Antiochus for Stratonice (Proper)
- Artist Benjamin West, American, 1738 - 1820
- Medium oil on canvas
- Dimensions 50 x 72 in. (127 x 182.9 cm) frame: 56 1/4 × 78 7/8 × 2 1/2 in. (142.9 × 200.3 × 6.4 cm)
- Credit Line Museum purchase with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Houston Blount, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Bodnar, John Bohorfoush, Mr. and Mrs. Percy W. Brower, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Thomas N. Carruthers, Jr., Catherine Collins, Mr. and Mrs. Henry C. Goodrich, Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Kaul, Harold and Regina Simon Fund, Mr. and Mrs. William M. Spencer III, Mr. and Mrs. Lee Styslinger, and other donors, 1987.4
- Work Type painting
- Classification Paintings
- On View
- Signature None
- Marks None
- Inscription Backing board, encapsulated label, typed gallery: ARTIST BENJAMIN WEST / 1738 1820 / Kennedy Galleries, Inc. / 40 W. 57th St., 5th Floor, N. Y. 10019 / 212-541-9600 / TITLE ERASISTRATUS DISCOVERS LOVE OF ANTIOCHUS FOR STRATONICHE, 1772 / SIGNED lower right / Year 1772 / SIZE and MEDIUM 50 X 72 inches / Oil on canvas / NUMBER 43271 NEG. NO B 3600 / [copyright symbol] Stock Number 922825.0002
- Provenance Benjamin West (1738-1820); purchased by Richard Grosvenor (later the first Earl Grosvenor) (1731-1802), Earl’s Court, London, by 1776; by exchange to West again by 1809 [see note 1]; inherited by his sons, Benjamin West, Jr. (1772-1848) and Raphael West (1766-1850), London, upon his death, 1820 [see note 2]; auctioned in the artist’s posthumous sale, Unequalled Collection of… the late Benjamin West, George Robins, Newman Street, London, May 22-25,1829, lot 177, as “Antiochus and Stratonice”; purchased by Hayes [see note 3]. Possibly W. Davidson 1838 [see note 4]. Possibly Miss E. Cowan, Kensington, 1938 [see note 5]. Possibly John Allnutt (1773-1863), Clapham Common, London [see note 6]. Unknown owner; auctioned at Pictures by Old Masters, from the collection at Castle Howard, York, Christie's, London, February 18, 1944, lot 143; purchased by James; dealer Hans M. Calmann (1899-1982), London, 1950; Ray L. Murphy, New York [see note 7]; auctioned at Important English Pictures, Christie's, London, November 22, 1985, lot 70. Purchased on joint account by dealer Kennedy Galleries, New York, and dealer Colnaghi, London, by 1986 [see note 8]; purchased by Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, 1987
1. Helmut von Erffa and Allen Staley propose that Richard Grosvenor returned the painting to West in exchange or partial payment for “Oliver Cromwell Dissolving the Long Parliament” (1782) or a set of commissioned paintings including “General Monk Receiving Charles II on the Beach at Dover” (1782), “The Battle of the Boyne” (1778), or “The Battle of La Hogue” (about 1775-1780). The Paintings of Benjamin West. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986. 169-70. No. 15. In 1809, West proposed to sell 1987.4 to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). Robert Fulton wrote to PAFA on April 12, 1810 on West's behalf with a price list of paintings listing 1987.4 as “Antiochus and Stratonica.” Robert Fulton to PAFA, April 12, 1810, 2 page letter, Cataloged Correspondence, MS.053, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
2. In a letter from April 12, 1826 from Benjamin West, Jr. and Raphael West to J. W. Taylor, Speaker of the House of Representatives, they offered the painting as “Antiochus and Stratonice” (no. 23) to the government of the United States for purchase. The letter is printed in Index to the Reports and Communications made by the Executive Departments of the Government to the House of Representatives. Second Session of the 19th Congress, 1826. Doc. No. 8. On December 11, 1826, J. W. Taylor presents the letter to the House. On December 19, 1826, the letter is referred to the Committee on the Library. On February 24, 1827, Mr. Everett of the Committee on the Library “made a verbal report… adverse to the request.” The letter was tabled and offer rejected. Journal of the House of Representative of the United States, Second Session of the Nineteenth Congress, 1826. 38, 73, 328.
3. “Hayes” is listed as the buyer in annotated sales catalogues at the Getty Research Institute. Annotations on the same catalogue for lot 127 lists “Hayes Charlotte Street” as the buyer, likely the same buyer of 1987.4.
4. Offered but unsold at Italian, French, Flemish, Dutch, and English pictures, Christie and Manson, Pall-Mall, March 19-21, 1838, lot 226, as “Antiochus and Stratonice.” This work could also be the smaller version of this scene, current location unknown, 4 ft. 7 in. x 5 ft. 5 in. including frame (listed in von Effra and Staley, 1986, no. 16).
5. E. Cowan is known from von Erffa and Allen Staley, 1986, no. 15.
6. Possibly offered at his posthumus sale, Celebrated Collection of Pictures… the engraved plates of Turner's Tivoli, the property of that well-known patron of art, John Allnutt, Christie's, London, June 20, 1863, lot 368, “Stratonice.” The auction catalogue provides no dimensions or description beyond the title “Stratonice.” An annotated copy of the catalogue at the Getty Research Institute lists “Cox” as the buyer.This work could also be the smaller version of this scene, further identified in note 4.
7. Ownership history from James through Ray L. Murphy according to von Effra and Staley, 1986, no. 15.
8. The Birmingham Museum of Art purchased the work from Kennedy Galleries, New York. Communication between Martha Fleischman of Kennedy Galleries and the Birmingham Museum of Art, dated February 12, 2019, notes that the Kennedy Galleries archives record that Kennedy Galleries “partnered” with Colnaghi, London to purchase the painting. The exact nature of the partnership is unknown.