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Peter Paul Rubens, The Judgement of Paris

Key facts
Full title The Judgement of Paris
Artist Peter Paul Rubens
Artist dates 1577 - 1640
Date made probably 1632-5
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 144.8 × 193.7 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1844
Inventory number NG194
Location Room 18
Collection Main Collection
The Judgement of Paris
Peter Paul Rubens

Eris, goddess of discord, was the only immortal not invited to an important wedding. Furious at being left out, she threw a golden apple inscribed ‘To the Fairest’ among all the goddesses at the feast. Three claimed the title – Minerva, Juno and Venus. Jupiter, chief of the gods, declared that Paris should be the judge. The young man had been raised as a shepherd, but was actually a prince of Troy.

It is this moment of choice that Rubens has depicted: Paris hands the golden apple to Venus, goddess of beauty, in the centre. The goddesses had all cheated. Juno offered Paris wealth and power, Minerva offered wisdom and strength. Venus promised him the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Sparta – an irresistible gift.

In the clouds above their heads is the implacable Fury, Alecto. In a jealous rage, Juno commanded her to destroy the Trojans. She caused Paris to abduct Helen, and the famous Trojan War began.

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