Roman Charity

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Roman Charity, by Bernardino Mei

Roman Charity (Latin Caritas romana; Italian Carità Romana) is the exemplary story of a woman, Pero, who secretly breastfeeds her father, Cimon, after he is incarcerated and sentenced to death by starvation. She is found out by a jailer, but her act of selflessness impresses officials and wins her father's release.[1]

The story is recorded in Nine Books of Memorable Acts and Sayings of the Ancient Romans (De Factis Dictisque Memorabilibus Libri IX)[2] by the ancient Roman historian Valerius Maximus, and was presented as a great act of pietas (i.e., filial piety) and Roman honour. A painting in the Temple of Pietas depicted the scene.[3] Among Romans, the theme had mythological echoes in Juno's breastfeeding of the adult Hercules, an Etruscan myth.[4]

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many European artists depicted the scene.[5] Most outstandingly, Peter Paul Rubens painted several versions. Baroque artist Caravaggio also featured the deed (among others) in his work from 1606, The Seven Works of Mercy. Neoclassical depictions tended to be more subdued.[6]

In Jan Vermeer's famous painting The Music Lesson, in the back can be seen a painting of the Roman Charity, consistent with his habit of putting paintings within paintings.[7]

For a 20th-century fictional account of Roman Charity, see John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (1939).[8] At the end of the novel, Rosasharn (Rose of Sharon) nurses a sick and starving man in the corner of a barn.

Artists' depictions[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Iconographical sources of nursing and nursing gestures in Christian cultures," Darkfiber.com, last visited 29 March 2006
  2. ^ Book V, 5.4.7
  3. ^ Mary Beagon, The Elder Pliny on the Human Animal: Natural History Book 7 (Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 314 online.
  4. ^ Nancy Thomson de Grummond, Etruscan Myth, Sacred History, and Legend (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 2006), pp. 83–84.
  5. ^ J. Paul Getty Museum. Cimon and Pero: "Roman Charity." Jean-Baptiste Greuze., last visited 23 September 2008
  6. ^ Shearer West, "Guide To Art." Bloomsbury, 1996 Bloomsbury.com, accessed 29 March 2006
  7. ^ Arthur K. Wheelock, "Vermeer & the Art of Painting." Artchive.com, accessed March 29, 2006
  8. ^ Steinbeck, John. The Grapes Of Wrath. New York: Viking Press, 1939.

External links[edit]