The Judgement of Paris

The story goes that when Zeus held a banquet in celebration of the marriage of Peleus and Thetis, Eris (the goddess of strife), who was not on the guest list, turned up uninvited and threw a golden apple inscribed with the words “For the fairest goddess” onto the banquet table. This started off a fierce beauty contest that produced three “finalists”: Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. Zeus was to give the final verdict, but he shirked his responsibility and sent the three goddesses to Troy, where Paris would be the judge of their beauty. All three of the candidates attempted to bribe Paris; Hera offered him unlimited power, Athena offered great knowledge, and Aphrodite offered the love of the world's most beautiful woman: Helen of Troy. Paris accepted Aphrodite's gift, and Aphrodite kept her promise by helping him to abduct Helen. This started the Trojan war.

Oil on canvas 100x90
1982
Detail
Detail

The earliest depictions of the Judgement of Paris are as old as Greek mythology. Much later, Cranach the Elder, Rubens and Klinger painted their famous versions. Willem Hofhuizen, too, devoted a virtuoso painting to this subject. It clearly shows his preference for cadmium red and yellow, and ultramarine blue. Another striking aspect of this painting is the way in which the glaze has been applied, especially in the leg sections at the center. Aphrodite is wearing a red cloth as a symbol of love. Hera has been given a white cloth, the bright center of this chiaroscuro painting. Athena’s yellow cloth echoes the dominant color of the background and is complemented by the blue of Paris’s robe.