Beneath the arena, Karl Theodor von Piloty
  • Artist
    Karl Theodor von Piloty
  • Born
    1826
  • Died
    1886
  • Title
    Beneath the arena
  • Date of Production
    c.1870
  • Medium
    oil on canvas
  • Dimensions
    250.0 x 2950 mm
  • Credit Details
    Gift of Major and Mrs. Alan Currie and Mrs. Blackwood, 1932

Karl Theodor von Piloty

Beneath the arena

The result of over 10 years work on this theme Beneath the arena is a major painting by the German artist Karl von Piloty, an internationally recognised exponent of history painting, who trained and taught at the Munich School of Art.  Piloty was a very influential teacher.  He taught George Frederick Folingsby, an early Director of the National Gallery Victoria School, who in turn taught most of the members of the Heidelberg school.

Brought to Melbourne for the Centennial International Exhibition in 1888 where it was praised for its technical skill and awarded the gold medal and a first order of merit, Beneath the arena  features the lifeless form of a young woman put to death for her Christian beliefs.  It was this painting which was described by Bertha Piloty in her husband's biography written in 1898 as:

"A noble young figure of a female Christian, who has been lowered into the basement of the Colosseum after her death. Heathen priests return to the arena after having concluded their religious formalities. A young heathen priest contemplating brave death, stays behind and will perhaps himself turn to Christianity".