The Head of Octavia by maidith

The Head of Octavia

by maidith in Digital illustration

The secret of a good painting is very simple: Put the right color in the right place. The difficult thing is to figure out how, and that always frustrates me a bit when I look at the paintings of two of my favorite artists, John William Waterhouse and Lawrence Alma-Tadema. How they get away with using patterns of flat color and sometimes very little shadow values and yet achieve such a stunning degree of realism?

Anyway: here we see the Roman emperor Nero, together with his girlfriend Poppaea Sabina (seated). He had forced his adoptive step-sister and wife Claudia Octavia to commit suicide so he could marry Poppaea Sabina, and here Octavia's head is brought to them on a plate.
I saw the scene first in the fantastic manga "Il mio nome è Nerone" ("My name is Nero") by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, who also made manga series about Alexander the Great, Jesus and Joan of Arc - it's such a darn shame these jewels haven't been translated into English yet! (I own the Italian editions). Nero was, despite his cruelty and lack of conscience, famously unable to see blood, and the manga also shows him rather disgusted at the sight of Octavia's severed head (then he runs to the balcony and throws up).

Altogether in that manga, we get a very realistic and convincing impression of how the emperor Nero actually could have been: the young emperor, who died at age 32, is shown as immature, impulsive, delusional and unstable, but as human, and as readers we actually feel sorry for the poor guy when at the end he is forced to commit suicide.

Painted in Photoshop, using my much-beloved Wacom Intuos 3, as always.
Poses are loosely referenced from photos and/or old master paintings, like most of the time; and 95% of the drapery and clothes and a few other parts are drawn from imagination.
Snatched from Center floor mosaic tile, top ornamental border, and the mural to the left.

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