Legendary for its ancient decadence and hedonism, Baiae was the subject of other nineteenth century poets such as John Addington Symonds who employed it as a setting for the eroticized renaissance of the beautiful male body.
Referring to death, it can be seen inscribed on grave markers in paintings such as Nicholas Poussin's, les Bergers d'Archadie, 1637-38 (Louvre). Armfield's work, in contrast, has no such overt reference to death, taking a rosy cheeked youth as its subject.
Armfield's painting enlivens this notion with its steady gaze on the male youth who embodies the classical past "arcadia." The male body is here configured as a gateway to this lost paradise, its arboreal likeness linking it directly to a verdant utopia.
Armfield, Maxwell. Tempera Painting Today (London: Pentagon, 1946). Ballad, J.D. Renaissance Erotic in the Poems of John Addington Symonds in And Never Know the Joy: Sex and the Erotic in English Poetry, ed. Shelley and His Friends in Italy, by Helen Rossetti Angeli; with Sixteen Illustrations by Maxwell Armfield, Eight of which are in Colour (London: Methuen co, ltd., 1911). Armfield, Maxwell. The Hanging Garden and Other Poems (Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent and Co., 1914). The role of the male body was paramount in this recreation of the classical past. Winckelmann, a candid homosexual, wrote frequently about the recovery of the male body as an object of beauty, configuring it as connecter between the past and the present.
The inscription is Et in Arcadia Ego and this constitutes a Latin phrase. As a matter of fact, the word fui (I was) is composed of three letters and can. Subsequently, his early works frequently engage with classical themes. Armfield's large scale paintings were almost entirely tempera, but he also produced numerous watercolor book illustrations for authors such as Edward Hutton and Helen Rossetti Angeli.
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