1. Biography - Work

The available evidence on Apaturius’ life and work is scanty. We know that he was born in Alabanda of Caria and lived during the 1st cent. BC. The only source that mentions the artist is Vitruvius, who preserved the following incident.1 Apaturius, who specialized in theatre scene-painting, had produced the scenery for a small theatre in Tralles, the so-called ecclesiasterion; after its completion, his work was very positively received by the citizens. The mathematician Licymnius was an exception; he confronted those that extolled his work, arguing that if the citizens accepted this over-elaborate decoration they would not be different from the inhabitants of Alabanda, infamous for their imprudence, or those of Abdera, who led a sybaritic life. Apaturius did not have the courage to defend his creation and preferred to replace the scenery with another, more conventional one, which was finally accepted by all the citizens.

2. Assessment

This incident, preserved by Vitruvius, is indicative of the impression Apaturius’ work made on his contemporaries. According to the description, it appears that the artist consciously employed an unrealistic style in his decoration of the Tralles theatre. According to Vitruvius, this choice was incompatible with the building’s double function: it did not only serve as a place of recreation, but also as a locus of political gatherings, as indicated by its name ecclesiasterion. Among else, the scenery incorporated architectural elements and were defined by an illusionist approach to representing reality, aimed at creating false impressions on the viewer. The detail in which this event was reported and the specific emphasis on the artist’s shift towards more conservative choices probably echoes Vitruvius’ personal views; he was a classicist and apparently did not approve of such -extreme in his view- tendencies in the contemporary art of the time.

1. Vitr. 7.5.5.