Married to King Menelaus of Sparta, the demi-goddess Helen was the daughter of Zeus and Leda, and according to Greek mythology, the most beautiful woman in the world. Panini here depicts the moment in which Helen is abducted by Paris, the episode that would trigger the Trojan War. The artist exploits his subject, using it as an opportunity to contrast the dramatic, nocturnal abduction depicted here, with the peaceful, daylight arrival of the pair in Troy. The scene is bathed in a cool light from the full moon which is surrounded by dense, whirling cloud formations. The darkness is interrupted by the flaming torches, illuminating the dynamic group of group of figures in the foreground; the soldiers race with Helen in their arms, still fighting their way down the steps of the palace while the Spartans look on from its balustrades in horror.
We are grateful to David Marshall and Giancarlo Sestieri for endorsing the attribution.
1. Anonymous sale, London, Christie’s, 4 December 2012, lot 51.
2. Private written communication with Giancarlo Sestieri, dated 6 December 2014.
3. F. Arisi, under Literature, p. 255, cat. no. 73, reproduced.
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