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The Judgement of Paris
Peter Paul Rubens

This painting depicts a critical moment in classical mythology. The man on the left with his back to us is Paris, who had been raised as a shepherd but was actually a prince of Troy. He has been asked to judge a beauty contest between the goddesses Venus, Juno and Minerva, and to award a golden apple to the winner. We see Paris hand the apple to Venus, won over by her promise to reward him with the love of the most beautiful mortal woman – Helen, the wife of King Menelaus of Sparta.

It is a choice that will lead to Paris’ eventual abduction of Helen, the Greeks' attempts to recapture her and the eventual destruction of Troy. Here, however, his decision is not depicted as a portent, but is hailed by the god Mercury, while four putti descend from the sky to assist in Venus’ coronation. Juno, a look of fury developing on her face, reaches out as though to try and intervene, while Minerva, her back to us, has yet to react.

Key facts
Artist Peter Paul Rubens
Artist dates 1577 - 1640
Full title The Judgement of Paris
Date made about 1597-9
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 133.9 x 174.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1966
Inventory number NG6379
Location in Gallery Room 18
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