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“The Judgement of Paris” by Peter Paul Rubens (The National Gallery, London)

Peter Paul Rubens - The Judgement of Paris

“The Judgment of Paris” by Peter Paul Rubens

“The Judgment of Paris” by Peter Paul Rubens shows Rubens’ version of idealized feminine beauty, with the goddesses Venus, Minerva, and Juno on the left side and Paris accompanied by Mercury on the right side.

The Judgement of Paris is a story from Greek mythology, which was one of the events that led up to the Trojan War, and in a later Roman version of the story, it also led to the foundation of Rome.

The story of the Judgement of Paris offered artists the opportunity to depict a beauty contest between three beautiful female nudes.

This Greek story starts when Zeus held a banquet in celebration of the marriage of Peleus and Thetis, the parents of Achilles. Unfortunately, Eris, the goddess of discord, was not invited, as she would have made the party unpleasant for everyone.

Eris arrived uninvited and angry at the celebration with a golden apple, which she threw into the proceedings as a prize of beauty. Three goddesses claimed the apple Hera (Juno), Athena (Minerva), and Aphrodite (Venus).

They asked Zeus to judge which of them was fairest, reluctant to decide himself; he declared that Paris, a Trojan mortal, would judge their cases.

With Hermes (Mercury) as their guide, the three beautiful goddesses confronted Paris. After failing to judge their beauty with their clothing on, the three goddesses stripped nude to convince Paris of their worthiness.

While Paris inspected them, each attempted to bribe him. Hera offered to make him king of Europe and Asia. Athena offered wisdom and skill in war.

Aphrodite offered the world’s most beautiful woman, Helen of Sparta, wife of the Greek king Menelaus. Paris accepted Aphrodite’s (Venus) gift and awarded the apple to her.

The Greeks’ expedition to retrieve Helen from Paris in Troy is the mythological basis of the Trojan War. Athena’s rage at losing makes her join the Greeks in the battle against Paris’ Trojans.

Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens was a Flemish artist who is considered the most influential artist of the Flemish Baroque tradition.

Rubens specialized in making altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects. His compositions referenced classical and Christian history and emphasized movement, color, and sensuality.

The Judgment of Paris

  • Title:                The Judgment of Paris
  • Artist:              Peter Paul Rubens
  • Year:                1635
  • Medium:         Oil on panel
  • Dimensions:    Height: 144.8 cm (57 in); Width: 193.7 cm (76.2 in)
  • Museum:         National Gallery, London

Peter Paul Rubens

The Judgment of Paris – Origins of the Trojan War

A Tour of the National Gallery

16th Century Paintings

The Judgment of Paris by Peter Paul Rubens

17th Century Paintings

The Judgement of Paris

18th Century Paintings

The Judgment of Paris

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“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
– Marilyn Monroe

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Photo Credit: 1) Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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