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The Judgement of Paris

van der Werff, Adriaen1716

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Dulwich Picture Gallery

This highly polished decorative painting with its elaborately posed figures represents Court taste at the beginning of the eighteenth century. It was bought for a large sum by the Duc d'Orléans, cousin to the king of France, in 1718.

Paris, a Trojan prince of outstanding beauty himself, was invited to judge in a beauty contest between three goddesses, Venus, Juno and Minerva. He awarded the prize of a golden apple to Venus, goddess of love, shown here accompanied by her doves and her son Cupid. In doing so, he of course offended the other contestants and the divine battle-lines for the ensuing Trojan War were duly drawn. Mercury, messenger of the gods, looks on pensively from the shadows.

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Details

  • Title: The Judgement of Paris
  • Date: 1716
  • Physical Dimensions: w457 x h633 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil
  • null: Engraved by Blot acc. to Jameson. Acc. to Smith another picture of this subject was painted 'for Count Czernini Chrudeniz, in 1717'. This is now in Dresden, no. 1818.label on back. 2 Seals :One prob. vvw
  • Work Nationality: Dutch
  • Support: Panel
  • Provenance: Purchased from Van der Werff by Louis-Philippe, Duc d' OrlŽans, 1718; imported with the OrlŽans collection to London, 1793; London, Christie's, Benjamin van der Gucht sale, 12 Mar. 1796, lot 80 ('The Judgement of Paris. Van der Werf hardly ever produced a more capital picture; if we take it for elegance of composition, it has all the graces of a Parmegiano, with that high-finishing and rich colouring in which his works so much excel'). Bt 'Sr F B' (Bourgeois) for £267.15; London, Noel Desenfans and/or Sir Francis Bourgeois, 1796-1807: London, Skinner and Dyke, Desenfans sale, 18 Mar. 1802, lot 188 ('VanderwerffÐThe Judgment of Paris'. Descriptive Catalogue, no. 169: 'Descamps ... informs us, that it was painted for the Duke of OrlŽans, while that Prince was regent of France, and even mentions the Price he paid for it, about eighty-five years ago ... The composition presents six figures -- Paris, who is partly covered with a blue drapery, is seated to the right of the picture, on the fore-ground, his crook and stick lying by him. Mercury, who comes to bring him the golden apple, with the three Graces, is standing behind him, whilst Juno, whose head is bound with a circle of gold, and her shoulders covered with a lilac drapery, takes the lead as the first goddess, and is standing near Paris. Minerva is on the left, with a helmet on her head, her arms bound with gold bracelets, and is partly covered with a drapery also of lilac colour. Venus is between them, having no other ornaments than her long fair hair; a little Cupid, at whose side hangs a quiver, is near his mother, wearing her blue drapery, and at her feet, are her two doves caressing ... Venus ... holds out her hand to Paris, to receive the apple'). Bt Chippendale for £404.5 (Bt in). Handwritten note in copy of catalogue at The Hague, RKD: '2 1/4 h. 1 3/4 P. [i.e. Panel] & Case. Bl Women & fine Trees &c.'; 1804 Insurance List no. 100; London, Sir Francis Bourgeois, 1807-1811; Bourgeois Bequest, 1811.
  • Inscriptions: Chevr van dr Verff fec
  • Further Information: The shepherd Paris judges Juno, Venus and Minerva and awards the golden apple to Venus (Ovid 'Heroides', XVI). According to the artist's notebook, work on the picture began in September 1716, Adriane van der Werff working on it for sixteen weeks and his brother and assistant Pieter van der Werff for ten weeks. It was acquired in 1719 by the French Regent, the duc d'Orleans. An earlier treatment by Van der Werff of the same subject, dated 1712, was formerly in the Gemaldegalerie, Dresden (destroyed).
  • Artist: van der Werff, Adriaen
  • Acquisition Method: Bourgeois, Sir Peter Francis (Bequest, 1811)

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