It’s Not Raining Yet!
The Damnation of the Pneumonides
aka It’s not raining yet! (1784)
by Pierre Josef-Louis Alphonse Étienne Eugène-François
(170 x 140 cm) Oil on canvas
Artistic merit aside, the famous depiction of The Damnation of the Pneumonides is an indictment of the subrodinate status of women under the patrician society of imperial Rome. The so proficiently rendered scene is a well known classic; Colonius three sons are about to depart towards the forum to stab senator Propicius who had raised taxes on sandals causing Colonius&Sons Sandalmakers great losses. The father wish his beloved sons farewell and wish them luck in their endevour, then reminds them of the bad weather outside and warns of the risk of catching a cold on their way back while putting the family’s umbrella at their disposal. The sons have their lances and swords at the ready but own no umbrella and fear they might have to do their killing under the rain which would ruin all their fun. In unison they raise their extended hands to show their father how they know that it is not raining yet and express vehemently their fear of being mocked by their prospective victim for carrying a girls’ umbrella to the forum. Clearly molified by his heirs’ reckless imbecility the father exhorts them to take their sisters’ umbrella anyway, pointing to the gathering storm outside. Behind Colonius the women weep in despair resigned to be deprived of the only umbrella in the household and foreboding their scheduled afternoon visit to the temple to make offering of a live ox to Jupiter. The artist portrays them leaning against each other, exhausted after a day of housekeeping but impotent to oppose the Roman law that stated male members of the family had preference of use over household appliances in case of rain. After arriving home soaked from the temple they found their father at the table telling gladiator jokes to the brothers who had never managed to kill the senator. The brothers had taken refugee inside a tavern during the storm and forgot the umbrella in a corner when they left as the rain had stopped by then, a custom born, like many others, in ancient Rome and that had persisted to this day. According to the story the sisters eventually rallied against their father after one of them died of pneumonia. The two surviving sisters devastated by the lost of the family’s only protection against that year’s particularly wet weather smothered Colonius with a cushion after the sister’s funeral. The surviving sisters were later slaughtered by the brothers who suspected the mischief when the sisters told them their father had fallen from a tree while chasing a possum. Being possums an Australian aboriginal marsupial and Australia remaining undiscovered at the time the brothers concluded the story to be a fabrication and decapitated their sisters. For this crime the Caesar condemned the fraticides to polish all the marble of Rome using exclusively their tonges.
The Damnation of the Pneumonides also known outside academic circles as It’s not raining yet! was commissioned to the painter Pierre Josef-Louis Alphonse Étienne Eugène-François who was the painter with the longest name in France at the time. The theme was chosen by his patron, a wealthy umbrella manufacturer from Reims who had made his fortune selling brocade umbrellas in prerevolutionary Paris. The revolution had caused umbrellas to fall out of fashion among republicans who identified parasols with the monarchy and the painting was intended to vindicate their utility as protective device against the rain.