The Vengeance of Odysseus

Illustration © The Estate of John David Roberts. Reproduced with the permission of the William Roberts Society. Catalogue information based on the catalogue raisonné by David Cleall. For this and full details of the exhibitions cited, see the links below. Any auction prices quoted may not include all fees and taxes, such as VAT and Artist's Resale Right charges.

The Vengeance of Odysseus

The Vengeance of Odysseus (aka The Gladiators), 1979
Oil on canvas, 61.0 cm x 50.8 cm

When this was first exhibited, in 1993, Roberts's son named it The Gladiators; however, the picture does not seem to depict a gladiatorial arena. Instead, its subject may be another moment in Book 22 of Homer's Odyssey, following that shown in The Vengeance of Odysseus 1974. Before Odysseus, his son and his two faithful servants attack the suitors, they discover the goatherd Melanthios supplying the suitors with weapons. The two servants seize him by his (long?) hair (l. 187), and he is trussed up and hoisted to the roof beams to watch what follows. After the suitors have been slaughtered and the women who slept with them have been killed, Melanthios (who had previously insulted and kicked the disguised Odysseus) is taken outside, where his nose, ears, hands and feet are cut off and his genitals fed to the dogs (ll. 473–6). It is perhaps the moment before this mutilation that Roberts has shown.
PROVENANCE: Estate of John David Roberts (held in Tate store, 2014)
EXHIBITION HISTORY: Gillian Jason Gallery 1993

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