About this artwork
These twelve drawings depict scenes from the French novel The Adventures of Telemachus (Les aventures de Télémaque) by François Fénelon. First published in 1699, it was one of the most popular books of the 1700s and 1800s.
Telemachus is the son of Ulysses from Homer’s Odyssey, the first four books of which describe the hero’s search for his father. Fénelon invented further adventures for Telemachus, in which he undergoes many trials while accompanied by his tutor, Mentor, who is actually the goddess Minerva (the embodiment of wisdom) in human disguise. A scathing critique of autocratic government and a diatribe against war, the book denounces luxury and decadence and calls for the simplicity and equality Fénelon believed ancient Greece best exemplified.
Pinelli illustrated scenes from books 1–8 and one scene from book 18, and probably planned to illustrate more from the 24 books of the text. Throughout, he celebrates the heroic nude, displaying a deep knowledge of ancient Roman sculpture. His style, influenced by Jacques-Louis David and John Flaxman, is characterized by bold, almost cartoonish contours, monochromatic washes, and frieze-like arrangements of figures.
Having now arrived with Mentor on the island of Crete, Telemachus finds that the Cretans, who banished their king, have called a contest to determine who will be elected their new leader. Telemachus defeats all contestants in the physical games, and proceeds to defeat all others with the wisdom of his answers to three questions. The great book held by the Cretan elders holds the laws of their first king, Minos, against whose wisdom the contestants’ answers are tested. Telemachus is offered the crown but declines.
Currently Off View
- Prints and Drawings
- Bartolomeo Pinelli
- Telemachus Describes How He Was Admitted into the Assembly in Crete, from The Adventures of Telemachus, Book 5
- Pen and black ink, with brush and dark gray and brown wash, over traces of black chalk on ivory laid paper, laid down on board
- 470 x 589 mm (sight); 558 x 665 mm (overall)
- Wirt D. Walker Fund