This is a story from classical antiquity. All the gods were invited to the wedding of Peleus, the son of the King of Greece, and the sea goddess Thetis, except for Eris, the goddess of strife and discord. She took her revenge by sowing dissent. Uninvited, she appeared at the wedding feast and threw a golden apple bearing the inscription ‘for the fairest’ among the numerous wedding guests.
Vulcan, the god of blacksmiths, sits in the foreground and drains the last dregs of wine from a pitcher. Behind him lies his hammer. On the left in the foreground sits the shepherd god Pan, identified by his large ears, little horns and goatee beard, and his Pan pipes. On the right sits a group of nymphs making music. Their music making expresses harmony. On the left under the trees Apollo, the patron of the arts, plays a violin. In the background on the right, the uninvited Eris flies away from the party. Precisely in the centre of the painting, Zeus sits at a table with the disputed apple in his hand. Three goddesses, Venus, Juno and Minerva, believed that they had a claim to the fruit. Paris, a Trojan prince, was given the unenviable task of deciding between them. This moment is illustrated at the upper right in the painting. Paris chose Venus, who offered him the beautiful Helen in return. His choice had disastrous consequences since it led indirectly to the Trojan War.
The painting in the Prinsenhof in Haarlem warned the men in authority against discord and bad decisions.