The Judgment of Paris
The Judgment of Paris
The central scene is surrounded by a 20” wide outer border depicting the elements of air (top), earth (sides), and sea (bottom) and their creatures: birds at the top (including an eagle, peacock, owl, and pheasant), beasts in landscape on the sides including a unicorn, tiger and pig on the left, possibly a wolf and a rabbit on the right, and mermaids and fish on the bottom in waves. Greens and blues predominate in the tapestry with gold highlights. A dense forest setting fills the background on the left, opening up to a vista, both occupied by horsemen, dogs, and hunters with a river and castle (Priam’s castle) in the distance. The large figures in the foreground depict the prince Paris in shepherd’s garb seated and partially kneeling before the three goddesses, his dog at his feet. The nymph Oenone with whom he was living is to the left of the goddesses, the first of whom is Venus, with bared bosom. She reaches out towards the apple Paris proffers. (Venus had offered him the most beautiful woman in the world, thus setting off the Trojan War.) Cupid is seen behind her. Next comes Minerva in full armor with spear, helmet and breastplate turned in conversation to Juno on the right. Juno’s peacock fills the immediate foreground. Several of the creatures in the borders may also serve as attributes of the goddesses: the eagle of Jupiter is followed by Juno’s peacock and Minerva’s owl while Venus’ dolphin is in the sea below. The dating of the tapestry to ca. 1685 reflects the dictates of Louis XIV’s pious mistress, Madame de Maintenon, who ordered that the classical deities be clothed. So even Cupid is fully dressed.
Manufactured by Gobelins Tapestry Manufactory (French, active from 1662 to present)
Picker Art Gallery, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY
Gift of Mrs. Hope Colgate Jerome Sloane, daughter of James C. Colgate
119 x 132 in.
Wool and silk tapestry
Manufactured by Gobelins Tapestry Manufactory (French, active from 1662 to present), “The Judgment of Paris,” Selected Old Masters from the Picker Art Gallery, accessed March 23, 2017, http://pickeroldmasters.omeka.net/items/show/43.