Like his compatriot Nicolas Poussin, Claude Lorrain forged his career in Rome. Claude's vision of the Roman countryside is grounded in a careful observation of nature, but he transformed the landscape into a timeless, idealized world through his masterful rendering of sunlight and strict structuring of space.
The Judgment of Paris is one of the best known Greek myths. The goddess Strife threw a golden apple marked "to the fairest" amidst the gods and Jupiter selected Paris, a Trojan shepherd, to award it. Each goddess tried to influence Paris with a special gift. Minerva, depicted here with a spear at her side, offered him victory in war. Juno, attended by her regal peacock, offered to make him ruler of the world, while Venus, accompanied by Cupid, proposed the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris chose Venus who then led him to Helen of Sparta, which precipitated the Trojan War.
Although the subject is suitable to history painting, the figures are relegated to the left-hand corner of the composition, making it clear that Claude's real interest was the landscape. The viewer's eye slowly moves from the tree in the extreme right foreground to the massive green trees in the middle ground. A winding river leads through the background until the mountains disappear in an atmospheric haze. Like Poussin, Claude has ordered nature -- here through parallel interlocked planes of space.