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Persian Envoys before the King of Ethiopia

Franciszek Smuglewicz is one of the most famous Lithuanian Classicism painters, the first professor and the head of the Drawing and Painting Department established in late 18th century in Vilnius University. His artworks and educational activities made significant impact for the development of professional Lithuanian art. His ancient subject paintings were inspired by works of Antique authors, such as Herodotus, Plutarch, Homer, and Vergilius. Depicted scenes were given philosophic and moralising subtext, corresponding with the spirit of the Enlightened Classicism. Painting “Persian Envoys before the King of Ethiopia“ portrays the episode described in “The History” by Herodotus, when the messengers of Persian king Cambyses (d. 522 BC), who plots an attack on Ethiopia, visits the Ethiopian king. Envoys brought gifts: a purple robe, a gold chain and a pin, an alabaster box containing balsam, and amphorae of wine. The king of Ethiopia realizes their cunning advances. He presents Persians with a bow and orders it to be given to their king, suggesting him to march upon the Ethiopians only when his forces are capable of drawing such mighty bows. Until they are able to do so, the Persians should thank their gods that the thought of marching to foreign lands did not cross the minds of Ethiopian sons. In the painting the bow is already in the hands of Persian envoy. Ethiopian king ignoring gifts piled at his feet drives his guests away with a thrust of his hand. Both "Persian Envoys before the King of Ethiopia” and “Scythian Messengers Meet the Persian King Darius I“ promote the right of nations to be independent and to fight for their freedom. As the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth ceased to exist in the late 18th century after its’ territory was partitioned among Prussia, the Austrian Empire, and the Russian Empire these ideas were very important at the time Franciszek Smuglewicz lived in and during the following years.