'The Finding of Aesculapius', painted between 1822-1839 by Giovanni Tognolli

Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 198.5 cm x 296 cm
Accession number: WAG 3040

According to Greek myth, Aesculapius, god of healing, was abandoned as a baby on a hillside. He survived by suckling from a nanny goat and was protected by a guard dog. He was rescued by a shepherd attracted by the baby’s dazzling aura, enhanced here by the bright white coverlet on which he lies.

Tognolli emphasises the nurturing qualities of the goat and the watchfulness of the dog. In the foreground a snake winds itself around a branch in a natural allusion to the symbol of Aesculapius and medicine itself.

Tognolli, before teaching at the British Academy in Rome, worked as a draughtsman in the studio of the leading neo-classical sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822). There he may have met the Liverpool born but Rome-based William Earle (1760-1839), the first owner of this painting.