Helena brought before the Altar to be Sacrificed

Francis Bourgeoisc. 1790-1805

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Helena is to be sacrificed to save the city of Lacedemon from plague, but an eagle snatches the knife and drops it on a heifer, which is sacrificed in her stead. Bourgeois' source was J. Bell, 'New Pantheon', 1790, p.376. DPG149 was exhibited at the RA in 1805.

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  • Title: Helena brought before the Altar to be Sacrificed
  • Date: c. 1790-1805
  • Physical Dimensions: w609 x h1026 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil
  • Work Nationality: British
  • Support: Canvas
  • Provenance: London, Sir Francis Bourgeois, 1811; Bourgeois Bequest, 1811.
  • Further Information: Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) was the founder of the Jesuit Order and canonised in 1622, a few years after this painting was completed. DFG148 represents Loyola's miracles--he cured a possessed woman, whose withered arm was healed when she washed the Saint's linen. The painting seems to be an autograph 'modello' for Rubens's altarpiece of the Miracles of Saint Ignatius, painted for the chapel of St Ignatius in the Jesuit church of Sant'Ambrogio, Genoa, c.1619. The attribution to Rubens is supported by the presence of underlying figures (upside down in relation to the present composition) that are revealed in the X-ray, indicative of the creative process Rubens put into his compositions.
  • Artist: Bourgeois, Sir Peter Francis
  • Acquisition Method: Bourgeois, Sir Peter Francis (Bequest, 1811)