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Product Details

Virgil & Fly

Original, oil on board, signed on reverse

Painting Size: 30 x 21 cm (12 x 8" )

Frame options:

Black with mount - frame size: 42 cm x 33 cm

Oak with mount - frame size: 42 cm x 33 cm

White with mount - frame size: 42 cm x 33 cm

Read more about our Framing Workshop here

The Story

The Shop Floor Project has commissioned British artist Raphael Balme to create a series of oil paintings which celebrate historical figures with their exotic pets and, in the case of Virginia Woolf, their alter egos. The collection includes; Frida Kahlo & Fawn, King John & Polar bear, Empress Josephine & Orangutan plus Mozart & Starling among others... 

Virgil's Pet Housefly

The lavish funeral the Roman poet Virgil staged for his pet housefly sounds absurd, but is by all accounts factual. Held in the grounds of Virgil’s home on Rome’s Esquiline Hill, the funeral attracted the great and good of the city. Dirges were sung and tributes read. Virgil’s patron, Maecenas, delivered a lengthy and moving eulogy to the departed insect, and Virgil was himself said to have uttered a few of his exquisite verses over the tiny carcass. A tomb had been erected, and the lifeless body of the fly was placed within it to the wails and moans of the professional mourners. So lavish were the commemorations that the cost was estimated at over eight hundred thousand sesterces.

But the reason for the funeral was not due to extravagance, eccentricity, nor even emotion. Having defeated Julius Caesar’s assassins at the battle of Philippi, the Second Triumvirate was at that very moment engaged in confiscating the estates of the rich and dividing them among the war veterans returning from the battlefield. Only one exception was given: if the estate held a burial plot, it was not to be touched. By burying his housefly, Virgil saved his house.


A new collection of original paintings by British artist Raphael Balme. A graduate of Chelsea College of Arts, Balme’s work plays with colour and pattern. Drawing on folk art motifs, she makes dream-like landscapes and portraits featuring fictional characters from duchesses to clowns. This latest collection is inspired by Balme's recent work on the frescoes in the old chapel at Villa Pozzolo in Tuscany. 

A picture of the artist's studio (taken by her good friend and fellow artist Mark Hearld)

Balme takes inspiration from many places, on her studio wall is a picture of this old chest, painted with mermaids and flowers.

Raphael recently worked on a new fresco at an ancient villa in Tuscany. "Villa Pozzolo was bought as a wreck by Niko Von Glasow, a film director and an old friend. The family are eccentric, daring entrepreneurs, connecting people, taking risks, with friends all over the world, when they invited me to go and be involved in painting the fresco in the chapel on the estate I jumped at it, although its’s an on going project. The house is completely magical and inspiring - a lot of my new work, particularly colours,  is directly influenced by time spent there. "

Balme's home and studio is filled with inspiration for her paintings...