National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Judgment of Paris Claude Lorrain (artist)
French, 1604/1605 - 1682
The Judgment of Paris, 1645/1646
oil on canvas
overall: 112.3 x 149.5 cm (44 3/16 x 58 7/8 in.) framed: 143.5 x 182.3 x 8.6 cm (56 1/2 x 71 3/4 x 3 3/8 in.)
Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund
On View
From the Tour: Seventeenth-Century French Painting
Object 4 of 8

The foremost landscape painter of the seventeenth century, Claude Gellée took the name Lorrain from his birthplace in the French-speaking duchy of Lorraine. After he arrived in Rome in 1613, the artist refined the exacting technique for blending translucent layers of oil paints in order to convey subtle atmospheric effects. Infused with the pastoral beauty of the Roman countryside, his harmonious landscapes -- classically designed and yet romantic in feeling -- had an enormous impact on later European attitudes toward nature as an ideal paradise.

Paris, a shepherd prince of ancient Troy, was called on to judge the most beautiful of three goddesses. The rival contestants, however, attempted to bribe him. Juno, queen of the Olympian deities who is attended by her regal peacock, promises Paris a great empire. Minerva, goddess of warfare with helmet and spear, waits to offer him victory in battle. Venus, goddess of love accompanied by her son Cupid, won the contest by proposing the most desirable woman as Paris' reward. With Venus' help he abducted a Greek beauty -- soon to be known as Helen of Troy -- and thereby started the Trojan War. In the distance is the citadel of Troy, behind which a setting sun may allude to the city's impending doom. Paris and Minerva, seated in opposite and symmetrical poses, enclose the standing goddesses, while the middle grove of trees divides the design in half. In a final adjustment, Claude moved one of the two sheep in the lower center; its original position, slightly farther up, can be detected. (Such alterations are called "pentimenti.")

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