Category: execution


1498 Gerard David – The Judgment of Cambyses

According to Herodotus, Sisamnes was a corrupt judge under Cambyses II of Persia. He accepted a bribe and delivered an unjust verdict. As a result, the king had him arrested and flayed alive. His skin was then used to cover the seat in which his son would sit in judgment.

Sisamnes was the subject of two paintings by Gerard David, “The Arrest of Sisamnes” and “Flaying of Sisamnes” both done in 1498. Together they make up The Judgement of Cambyses diptych, which was commissioned to hang in the Aldermen’s Room in the Bruges City Hall. (Historical images of judgment were commonly used to decorate chambers of justice in 15th-century Europe.)

Sisamnes had a son named Otanes who replaced him as a judge, and later became a Satrap in Ionia.

Gerard David (c. 1460 – 13 August 1523) was an Early Netherlandish painter and manuscript illuminator known for his brilliant use of color. Only a bare outline of his life survives, although some facts are known. He may have been the Meester gheraet van brugghe who became a master of the Antwerp guild in 1515. He was very successful in his lifetime and probably ran two workshops, in Antwerp and Bruges. Like many painters of his period, his reputation diminished in the 17th century until he was rediscovered in the 19th century.