About This Artwork

Master M.Z.
German, active 1500-1550

Aristotle and Phyllis, c. 1500

Engraving in black on cream laid paper
182 x 131 mm (sheet trimmed within plate mark)

Clarence Buckingham Collection, 1935.10

According to legend, Alexander the Great’s tutor, Aristotle, counseled him to resist the seductions of Phyllis, the king’s mistress, and focus on his royal duties. But Aristotle ignored his own advice, and with her promise of sexual favors, let Phyllis mount him like a horse. Forewarned by Phyllis, Alexander was able to secretly observe his tutor’s humiliation. Brandishing a riding crop, here Phyllis amply demonstrates the power of feminine wiles over masculine intellect. Indeed, the philosopher’s sunken eyes and compromising position indicate his smitten blindness to his lust, as he is almost completely eclipsed by her voluminous skirts.

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