Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912) was one of the finest and most distinctive of the Victorian painters. Dutch-born, he moved to London in 1870, and became famous for his depictions of the luxury and decadence of the Roman Empire, with languorous figures set in fabulous marbled interiors or against a backdrop of dazzling blue Mediterranean sea and sky. In this original and penetrating study, Rosemary Barrow presents an absorbing and often amusing portrait of an exuberant personality who carved out a brilliant career for himself at the heart of London's artistic and cultural élite. But above all she subjects the paintings to a fresh and rigorous scrutiny, revealing that Alma-Tadema was a highly knowledgeable student of antiquity, who made effective use of precise literary and archaeological allusions to play a game of interpretation with his viewers. Time and again the seeming innocence of the scenes he depicts is subverted by a mischievously placed inscription or statue, suggesting to the initiated a darker and usually risqué meaning. Like his contemporaries, Alma-Tadema was neglected after his death, but his paintings are once again admired for their beauty and their mastery of light, colour and texture. With its fresh and intriguing new insights into his personality and intentions, this book now provides a challenging reassessment of a major artist.