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The Judgement of Paris

The story of the Judgement of Paris comes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses when Eris the goddess of strife threw an apple inscribed “to the fairest” into a banquet held by the Gods. Three goddesses, Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, claimed that it should belong to them, and the task of choosing between them was delegated to the mortal Paris, son of King Priam of Troy. Hera promised him land and riches, Athena victory in battle and Aphrodite the love of the most beautiful women in the world. In the end Paris chose Aphrodite, who told him of the beauty of Queen Helen of Sparta, with whom Paris later eloped, leading to the Trojan War and his own death.

Adriaen van der Werff was admired for his mastery of the highly polished fijnschilder, or fine-painter, technique which he blended with French Classicism to create his own style. This is particularly evident here in the figures of the three goddesses; their elongated postures and pale, marble-like complexions evoke classical sculpture. Aphrodite, in the centre, is thought to have been based on a copy after Guido Reni’s Adam and Eve, which was in Rotterdam when this picture was being painted.

Van der Werff was highly successful in his own lifetime, and his patrons included the Elector Palatine of the Rhine at Düsseldorf and the Duke of Orleans, Regent of France, who bought The Judgement of Paris in 1719 for an enormous sum. By the early 1790s the painting was in England, and was acquired by Noel Desenfans in 1796.

Not currently on display

Adriaen van der Werff
63.3 x 45.7 cm
Oil on panel
Signed and dated, lower left: 'Chevr vandr/ Verff Fec/ ano 1716'
Bourgeois Bequest, 1811
Accession number