Nero's forlorn condition in his flight from Rome. A.R. 817.

WAG 7737


This is one of a group of drawings by British artist and book illustrator Edward Francis Burney, depicting scenes from Greek and Roman history and mythology. One of the inscriptions on the margin, July No. 8, seems to refer to the month in a calendar for which Burney created this frontispiece drawing. He executed many headpieces of this kind for pocket calendars and memorandum books between 1796 to 1829. [See correspondence between Patricia Crown and Edward Morris, in the docket file] The image depicts Emperor Nero in his flight from Rome during his last days. According to ancient historians, after a series of uprising and revolts in Rome in 68 CE, Nero attempted to flee to Egypt in disguise but was recognised by a soldier. It is also written that the earthquake (suggested by the uprooted tree) and lightning were sure signs of the impending death of an important person. This drawing of a desperate, disguised Nero elicits a degree of pathos.