Sappho by Steve Plummer
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February 2018
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The illusion is based on a painting of Sappho by Auguste Charles Mengin. It was painted in 1877 and is now in Manchester Art Gallery. Sappho was a Greek poet who lived around 600BC. She threw herself into the sea because of unrequited love, still holding her lyre.

The original painting is very dark, as is the illusion. It has lots of subtle shading. If you don’t have room to hang such a big piece you could add a wide border and use it as a bed cover.

I used Stylecraft Special DK in Midnight and Buttermilk. If you wanted it to be smaller you could use a thinner yarn. Illusions work whatever thickness of yarn you use. I used about 1100 metres (1200 yards) of each colour plus extra for the border and mounting.

My finished hanging measures 94 cm x 150 cm (37” x 60”).

The pattern contains several versions of the chart, including one for tablet or phone use.

October 2018
We went to Manchester Art Gallery to see Sappho and an ‘updated version’, called Seeping Sappho by Maisie Broadhead.

This work is part of the exhibition ReFrame which interrogates representations of women in historic paintings in Manchester Art Gallery’s collection.

Maisie Broadhead focuses on paintings of legendary women and reimagines Charles Mengin’s Sappho, displayed in Gallery 10. Sappho was a Greek lyric poet born about 600 BC. She wrote about love, yearning and reflection, dedicating many of her poems to women who studied with her on the island of Lesbos. She was, and remains, a literary and lesbian icon.

Mengin painted a desperate Sappho at a cliff edge, breasts exposed, eyes cast down, illustrating a now discredited myth that she committed suicide due to unrequited love for a man. Broadhead’s Sappho looks directly at the viewer; she is less vulnerable and more assertive. The image cannot contain her and seeps outwards, distorting the frame.

The last photo is a moving animation of the illusion.