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For ploughing, go to a ploughman; for weaving, to a servant-maid

Updated on January 6, 2011

Apelles, the greatest of Greek painters, was famous for his pictures of "Venus Rising from the Sea" and "The Three Graces." Another picture of his, " Alexander Wielding a Thunderbolt," was known all over the ancient world.

The most famous story of Apelles concerns him and a cobbler. At an exhibition of the great artist's work, Apelles himself stood behind one of his pictures, listening to what the people said about them. A cobbler, looking at a picture, found fault with a shoe, or rather sandal, depicted in it, and Apelles at once set to work to alter it and put it right. The cobbler was immensely pleased and got rather swelled head - so much so that next day he came back and began to criticise the legs in the picture. Out came Apelles in a fine rage and told the cobbler to stick to his last.

Coincidentally, Su Tung-p'o, poet of Sung dynasty, recorded a story concerns herdboy and a painting of oxen.

In Ssu-ch'uan province there lived a retired scholar, named Tu. He was very fond of calligraphy and painting, and possessed a large and valuable collection. Among the rest was a painting of oxen by Tai Sung, which he regarded as exceptionally precious, and kept in an embroidered case on a jade-mounted roller. One day he put his treasures out to sun, and it chanced that a herdboy saw them. Clapping his hands and laughing loudly, the herdboy shouted out, "Look at the bulls fighting! Bulls trust to their horns, and keep their tails between their legs, but here they are fighting with their tails cocked up in the air; that's wrong!" Mr. Tu smiled, and acknowledged the justice of the criticism.

So truly does the old saying run: For ploughing, go to a ploughman; for weaving, to a servant-maid.

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