About this artwork

This was painted in Rome at a time when the discovery of lost, ancient Graeco-Roman sculptures and mural paintings was exciting great interest in the artistic world. Greek or Roman subject matter was adopted by many artists. Here, Allan has chosen to illustrate a charming anecdote by the ancient Roman author Pliny, claiming that the art of painting had first been invented by a Corinthian girl who traced the outline of her lover's shadow on the wall before he went into battle.

David Allan

David Allan

Allan was born in Alloa, on the River Forth, and attended the Foulis Academy in Glasgow for seven years. In 1767 he moved to Rome, where he lived for ten years; this was the most successful period of his life. In Rome, Allan painted ambitious historical pictures, portraits, caricatures and genre scenes. On returning to London in 1777, he spent two years trying to establish himself. Unsuccessful and ill, he returned to Scotland where he specialised in painting family groups. He also produced book illustrations and was appointed the master of the Trustees' Academy at Edinburgh.