Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Helen of Troy

British academic painter Sir Edward John Poynter (1836–1919)

Helen (1881)

Helen of Troy, was the daughter of Zeus and Leda. As the daughter of Leda and her divine father she became the most beautiful (human) woman of the world. Hardly surprising that many kings and princes wanted to marry her, and she chose Menelaus the mighty king of Sparta.
The problems began when the goddess Aphrodite promised Paris a prince from Troy the love of the most beautiful of all women and helped him to take Helen away with him. As anybody knows was this was the cause of the Trojan war. Apart from that is not clear, if Helen followed Paris willingly or if she was taken by force, if she really loved Paris or if she was only a vain and selfish woman.
When the Greeks finally conquered and destroyed the city Menelaus wanted to kill his unfaithful wife, but seeing her beauty (she dropped her robe) he forgave her and took her as his queen back to Sparta.

It seems that artists were not very interested in Helen as a person. She appears more as the prize, the big trophy, that for the best champions of the world battled for years. She was as Christopher Marlowe said: "the face that launched a thousand ships."

On this painting by Edward Poynter she looks a little disturbed while Troy is burning down.

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