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In Disney's Hercules (1997), after Herc and Meg ditch Phil to go on a date, they stroll through a statue garden. They talk a bit, things are awkward, Meg trips down the stairs, and Herc catches her before carrying her over to a bench. But it's much, much more than a bench! (1/9)
It's a schola, a unique type of semicircular bench tomb that is found only in Pompeii, often with griffin legs carved on the armrests, as in the film. This is the schola tomb that makes the burial place of a Roman priestess named Mamia, outside Pompeii's Herculaneum Gate. (2/9)
Only eight schola tombs are known to survive today, but they became famous in the 19th century, because the Victorian neoclassical painter Lawrence Alma-Tadema absolutely *loved* these things. Here's his painting, "An Exedra" (1869), depicting one of these schola tombs (3/9)
Alma-Tadema also enjoyed setting moody awkward courtship scenes on these schola tombs. Here are his paintings, "Amo te, ama me," Latin for "I love you, so love me back" (1881) and "An Eloquent Silence" (1890) (4/9)
He also saw them as a fantastic place to set aloof women. Here are his "Dolce Far Niente," Italian for "Doing Nothing is Sweet" (1882), as well as "Sweet Dreams" (1901) by his protege John William Godward. Note that the color palettes are strikingly similar to Meg's! (5/9)
Remarkably, Alma-Tadema's women tend to be passive and resistant to the men courting them, but Disney cleverly flips the gender roles here and makes Herc the bashful one as Meg actively pursues him (6/9)
But remember, despite the Romantic overtones these Victorian neoclassical painters gave it, it's also still a tomb! And the only other time when we see Herc carrying Meg like this (and in exactly the same pose), she’s dead and he’s bringing her soul back from the Underworld (7/9)
With this little detail, Disney's artists bring in two different but overlapping artistic traditions — one classical and about death, the other neoclassical and about love — reinforcing the erotic themes while foreshadowing Meg's death, which will be echoed visually later (8/9)
Thanks for reading! I'll be posting more threads about sculptures in this scene and their significance throughout the day (there is *so much* going on here — appropriate for a showstopper like "I Won't Say I'm in Love"). If you enjoyed this, retweet, follow, and stay tuned! (9/9)
Also, if you want to learn more about schola tombs and see some photos of the others, check out this article by Allison Emmerson:
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