Paris, Île-de-France, France
by

The Sosibios Vase

When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou sayst,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Keats’ 1819 meditation on art and time is one of the English language’s greatest odes. The urn described in such detail in the poem is of Keats’ own imagining, but he is known to have been exposed to a variety of classical vases at the time of writing. (The sculptural–rather than painted–decoration of the poem’s urn is Roman, not Greek, style.) One such candidate is the Roman Townley Vase at the British Museum, which Keats visited frequently with his friend Benjamin Haydon, whose 1819 articles on Greek art inspired the poem.

Though Keats never traveled to France, he likely also drew major inspiration from the Sosibios Vase in the collection of the Louvre: his famous sketch of the vase is traced from an 1814 image of the same by Henry Moses.

The Sosibios Vase