Jean Jacques François Lebarbier
French, 1738 ‑ 1826
Helen and Paris, 1799
Oil on canvas
34 × 40 in. (86.4 × 101.6 cm.)
Gift of the Charter Collectors 1998.21
The subject of this painting derives from the Iliad, an epic poem set during the Trojan War. Dated to 760 BC, the Iliad is one of the oldest stories in the world. With its central themes of heroism and sacrifice for one’s country, the Iliad was a popular source of inspiration during the French Revolution (1789 – 1799) among artists like Lebarbier. The war between Greece and Troy was ignited when Paris, a Trojan prince, seduced and kidnapped Helen, the beautiful queen of the Greek city-state of Sparta. While the Greeks besieged Troy, Paris left the fighting to be with Helen. In this painting, Hector, Paris’s brother and commander of the Trojan army, arrives to urge Paris to return to the battle. Hector, in a white-plumed helmet, gestures toward the warring armies outside and scolds Paris for abandoning the fighting. Paris explains that at Helen’s urging, he had been preparing his armor for battle.