132.1 x 213.9 cm
The Roses of Heliogabalus is one of Alma-Tadema’s most famous paintings. It depicts the Roman Emperor Egabalus (Heliogabalus), a debauched psychotic. In this episode, he is attempting to smother his unsuspecting audience with rose petals, which have been let loose from false ceiling panels. Alma-Tadema, being a meticulous perfectionist, wanted each petal to be as perfectly realistic as possible, and had shipments of rose petals sent to him from the Riviera over the winter of 1887-1888, so he would have fresh examples. This was a common practice by Alma-Tadema, who often ordered flowers from all over Europe and sometimes Africa, as examples for his paintings, rushing to complete the work before the flowers died.