JUDGEMENT OF PARIS, 1930
Oil on canvas. 24½ x 29½in. (62 x 75cm.)
Sotheby’s, London, 14th March 1979 lot 87. Illustrated in b/w in the catalogue.
Hove Museum and Art Gallery, purchased with the assistance of the Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, 1980. Accession No: H1980/7.
Cheltenham, Municipal Art Gallery, 1936, no 4.
London, Parkin Gallery, 1977, No. 3.
Arts Council Travelling Exhibition, 1987, No. 19, illustrated in the catalogue with notes by Prof. Norbert Lynton.
According to the Parkin Gallery catalogue, and the Hove Museum web site, the work was exhibited at the Penzance retrospective in 1976. If so, it was ex-catalogue.
Ratcliffe (2007) illus. col. pl. 34.
Eris, goddess of Strife, handed an apple to Jupiter asking him to give it to the fairest goddess. Jupiter realised how dangerous the task was and entrusted his son, Mercury, to find a mortal able to make the choice. Mercury chose Paris, son of Priam the king of Troy and working in obscurity as a shepherd, to execute the task.
Paris chose Venus over Juno and Minerva, as she promised him the hand of Helen. This he preferred to the rival offers - Juno had promised power and riches and Minerva had offered untold bravery. Paris eloped with Helen to Troy, causing Menelaus, her father and King of Sparta, to attempt her recapture.
The picture plane is very flat, like a frieze. However, unlike most friezes where the action moves from left to right, here the three goddesses progress from right to left past Paris: Juno in her chariot pulled by peacocks; Venus astride a goat (symbolising lust) and Minerva in her long, plumed helmet, armed to defend justice. Juno carries a sceptre that closely resembles a mahl stick.
The confident postures and upturned faces of the goddesses make a strong contrast with the downcast figure of Paris. Perhaps his posture anticipates his future: at Troy, he earned the contempt of all for his cowardice. Here, dressed in his rustic costume, he avoids eye-contact as he toys with his apple.
Ratcliffe, E. Ithell Colquhoun. Mandrake, Oxford. 2007.