The Gruesome Messages Fine Art Conveys

If you think the world has become a frightful place in which to live, perhaps you need to take a walk through an art museum. In many cases, art truly does imitate life. Take, for example, the painting entitled Flaying of Sisamnes (see below). Painted in 1498 by Gerard David, the painting is based on the story of the trial and execution of an unjust and corrupt judge, Sisamnes, which occurred in the 6th century B.C. It’s a story that’s known for both its moral and its horror, and it's not easily forgotten. Sisamnes was a royal judge under the reign of King Cambyses II. Sisamnes accepted a bribe from a party in a lawsuit, thereby rendering an unjust judgment. When King Cambyses learned of the bribe, he had Sisamnes arrested and punished — but it was no ordinary punishment. In fact, it was downright cruel. King Cambyses slit his throat and flayed off all his skin; then, he strung the chair on which Sisamnes had used to sit to deliver his verdicts with his skin. However, Cambyses’s creativity didn’t stop there. To replace Judge Sisamnes, Cambyses appointed Sisamnes’s son, Otanes, forcing him to sit on the chair made from the skin of his father while he rendered verdicts on cases that came before him (depicted in the above painting). It was to be a constant reminder of what happens when you give in to corruption.