Blake made this watercolour for Thomas Butts, his life-long patron and supporter. In addition to working as an engraver, Blake also experimented with tempera and worked in watercolour, but rejected painting in oils.
When Paris, a Trojan prince, was serving as a shepherd he was asked to judge which goddess was the most beautiful: Athena, Aphrodite or Hera. Blake has depicted the moment at which Paris hands the golden apple to Aphrodite, who promised him the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris chooses Helen, wife of the Spartan King Menelaus. He abducts her and thereby brings about the Trojan War.
The scene to the left, behind Paris, highlights the disturbance to come. Elated, Eros (who is often identified as Aphrodite's son) flies away, but above him is Discord, and Hera points to the black clouds which gather above Troy. The pose of the figure of Paris has been related to the detail of an ancient Greek vase from Sir William Hamilton's collection, published in volumes by D'Hancarville (Naples, 1766-67, plate 232)
Another painting of 1812 by Blake, Philoctetes and Neoptolemus at Lemnos (Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass.), depicting a different scene from the story of the Trojan War, seems to be a pendant to this one. In the story Philoctetes kills Paris and is instrumental in the victory of the Greeks over the Trojans.