Cy Twombly‘s move to Gaeta in Southern Italy in 1957 gave him closer contact with classical sources. From 1961 to 1963 mythological motifs appear with increasing insistence: Leda and the Swan, Venus, Apollo, Achilles. This line of investigation culminated in 1963 with a series of works called Nine Discourses on Commodus, an obscure portrait of the megalomaniacal Roman emperor conceived while Twombly was reading the French novelist Alain Robbe-Grillet and looking at the paintings of Francis Bacon. These works were shown at Leo Castelli Gallery in 1964, to a New York art world which had by then turned to Pop and Minimalism. Following this exhibition, Twombly’s American enthusiasm ebbed for a number of years. The situation was quite different in Europe, where his work remained a critical success. Nevertheless, the Commodus exhibition represents a crucial moment of rupture in the artist’s career, for, as he commented, it made him ‘the happiest painter around for a couple of years: no one gave a damn what I did’.