Phryne's real name was Mnēsarétē ("commemorating virtue"), but owing to her yellowish complexion she was called Phrýnē ("toad"). This was a nickname frequently given to other courtesans and prostitutes as well. The exact dates of her birth and death are unknown, but she was born about 371 BC. In that year Thebes razed Thespiae not long after the battle of Leuctra and expelled its inhabitants.
Athenaeus Naucratita, a Greek rhetorician and grammarian, provides many anecdotes about Phryne. He praises her beauty, writing that on the occasion of the festivals of the Eleusinia and Poseidonia she would let down her hair and step naked into the sea. This would have inspired the painter Apelles to create his famous picture of Aphrodite Anadyomene (Rising from the Sea also portrayed at times as Venus Anadyomene). Supposedly the sculptor Praxiteles, who was also her lover, used her as the model for the statue of the Aphrodite of Knidos.
Praxiteles of Athens
The Aphrodite of Knidos
Phrine seduces Xenocrates, 1794
Phryne Tempting Xenocrate
Phryne at Eleusis, c. 1907
Phryne Before the Judges, c. 1948
PHRYNE, c. 1909
Phryné remettant ses voiles
Study for a Composition: Phryne c.1804–10
Study for a Composition: Phryne c.1802–10
Phryne before Praxiteles, 1900
Courtesan Phryne before their judges
Phryne Before the Areopagus, mid-18th century
Phryne Before the Areopagus