Charles August Mengin
Sappho, 1877, oil on canvas, 230.7 × 151.1 cm, Manchester Art Gallery.
Sappho was a Greek poet who lived around 600 BC. She wrote about love, yearning and reflection, often dedicating her poems to the female pupils who studied with her on the island of Lesbos. Mengin has chosen to paint a legend narrating that Sappho killed herself by jumping off the Leucadian cliffs for unrequited love of Phaon, a ferryman. This legend is regarded as unhistorical by modern scholars, but it may have resulted in part from a desire to assert Sappho as heterosexual.