First, be delighted by this particularly skillful wood engraving from a painting by F. D. Millet (who went down with the Titanic) of a lovely ancient Roman domestic scene. Then see whether you can answer these two questions:

1. What egregiously obvious anachronism has the artist introduced?

And the second might help answer the first:

2. How might you guess immediately that an American painter was responsible for this image?

The answer:

Branches of Cornus florida, the flowering dogwood, are used as decorations in the background. The furniture and costume are well researched, but Cornus florida is endemic to the eastern United States and some isolated parts of Mexico, and would thus have been unknown to the ancient Romans.

This is why artists have to know their botany.

A scholar of ancient Roman costume and furnishings might find other anachronisms as well, but the botanical one leapt out at Dr. Boli.


  1. Ha! I immediately guessed that it was probably that the plant in the background was some sort of New World species, but unfortunately my own botanical knowledge is far inferior to that of the good Dr. Boli, so I was unable to identify which plant species/cultivar it was.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *