ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
All texts copyright Richard Shillitoe

judgement of paris


Oil on canvas. 24½ x 29½in. (62 x 75cm.) Provenance Sotheby’s, 14 March 1979, lot 87, ill. b/w Private collection. Hove Museum and Art Gallery. Exhibited Cheltenham, Municipal Art Gallery, 1936, no. 4. London, Parkin Gallery, 1977, no. 3. Touring, Arts Council, 1987, no. 19, ill., According to the Hove Museum web site the work was exhibited at the artist’s Penzance retrospective in 1976. If so, it was ex catalogue. Literature Ratcliffe, 2007, ill. col. pl. 34. Eris, goddess of Strife, handed an apple to Jupiter asking him to give it to the fairest goddess. Jupiter realised how dangerous the task was and entrusted his son, Mercury, to find a mortal able to make the choice. Mercury selected Paris, son of Priam the king of Troy. Paris, who was working in obscurity as a shepherd, chose Venus over Juno and Minerva, as she promised him the hand of Helen. Paris eloped with Helen to Troy, causing Menelaus, the King of Sparta, her father to attempt her re-capture. The picture plane is very flat, like a frieze. However, unlike most friezes where the action moves from left to right, in this work the three goddesses progress in front of Paris from right to left. The confident postures and up-turned faces of the goddesses make a strong contrast with the downcast figure of Paris. In other words, they display characteristics traditionally associated with males such as assertiveness and self-confidence, whilst Paris adopts a traditionally female characteristic of passivity. Perhaps his posture anticipates his future at Troy where he earned the contempt of everyone for his cowardice. Here, dressed in his rustic costume, he avoids eye-contact as he toys with his apple.