Roman charity

Lamport Hall, Northamptonshire

Lamport Hall, Northamptonshire

Lamport Hall, Northamptonshire [] is a beautiful house with lots of stories of the Isham family, who lived there and repeatedly extended it over four hundred years.  Sir Gyles Isham, the twelfth baronet, restored it from wartime neglect and safeguarded its future with a preservation trust:  oddly, he seems to have left the house short of beds, so that the rooms on the upper floor are variously furnished.

One of these rooms is dominated by a particular painting that is mentioned in the guidebook only as “‘Roman Charity’ from the school of Rubens”.  In the group I joined there was a gentleman specialising in egregious questions who asked what was going on in this unusual scene.

Our guide remarked that she only ever explained the painting if asked.  The grey-bearded man in the painting was in prison – which explained why he was shackled and stark naked.  The lady in the painting was his daughter, and was carrying a baby.  The baby, the guide pointed out, indicated how it was that the daughter was in a position to give her imprisoned father “sustenance”.

I checked out afterwards that this is the legend of Myco (the father) and Pero (the daughter), which is recorded by the Roman historian Valerius Maximus, writing at the time of Christ.  I found this at a site  What would we do without Google?

So if you visit Lamport Hall, you don’t need to ask about the painting.


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