|John Alexander Gresse
|Image 165 x 95 mm
A statue of the Roman general and statesman, Marc Antony, from James Kennedy's 'A description of the antiquities and curiosities in Wilton-House' (1786). Antony is depicted in the guise of an orator, bare-chested, with a loose-fitting toga, and with his right arm raised in a standard gesture of declamatio.
Marcus Antonius (83-30 BC) was the son of Marcus Antonius Creticus. After a supposedly dissolute youth, his ability as a military commanded brought him to the attention of Julius Caesar, and by the time of the Civil War, he had become one of Caesar's cavalry commanders, being given command of the left wing at the watershed battle at Pharsalus. Following Caesar's death, he emerged as the most likely successor to command of the Caesarian forces, though his position became increasingly tenuous with the rise of the young Octavian. Allegiance with Octavian led to the removal of the most prominent of the remaining anti-Caesarians, but also cleared the field for further conflict between the two men. Antony's relationship with Cleopatra of Egypt and his absence from Rome provided Octavian with the perfect propaganda for turning popular sentiment against the former favourite, and the astute naval manoeuvring of Octavian's general, Agrippa, robbed Antony of his once superior military might. Following his loss at the Battle of Actium, Antony committed suicide rather than submit.
John Alexander Gresse (1741-1794) was an English draughtsman, painter, and engraver. Born in London, Gresse studied drawing under Gerard Scotin, and and was one of the first students to work in the gallery of casts founded by the Duke of Richmond. In 1777, he was appointed drawing-master to the Royal Princesses. He occasionally practised etching, publishing 'St. Jerome' after Guido, and 'A Satyr Sleeping' after Poussin. Gresse was also a great collector of works of art, and an auction of his collection shortly after his death lasted for six days.