Nero Commanding and powerful in its initial impact, this painting captivates the viewer with its portentous presence. Embraced by grained and intricately painted wood-like curtains, the Roman Emperor looks out onto his audience with a masked and unreadable face. “the world is a stage” – Shakespeare This painting depicts the Tree of Life and an awareness of the world. According to Greek myth, the Tree of Peace miraculously gave birth on the ninth month of ripening to the god of love, Adonis. Adonis’s role could have been played by Emperor Nero. Nero staged gladiator battles involving ravenous beasts, viewing the fights through an emerald, polished into the shape of a lens.
Through this lens, the blood did not appear as red in color. This picture is painted in ghostly greenish tones with brownish-yellow reflections in the folds of the fabric, as if the observer were looking through an emerald lens. Nero was considered to care more for the arts and theater than the ruling of his far flung empire. Seen robed and backlit by a pale glow, he could be playing any of the many roles in his theater, roles that he preferred to the realities confronting him in his declining kingdom. Nero leads us to contemplation of our own roles in our theater, as we often mask our true selves from those that we know.