(1859 - 1938) | D.884.1
Date : Circa 1883 | Medium : Oil on canvas
The subject of this painting by Rochegrosse is the sacrifice of Astyanax, the son of Hector's wife Andromache, at the end of the Trojan War, when Astyanax is torn from his mother's arms and thrown from the ramparts of Troy by Odysseus, the Greek hero.
Georges-Antoine Rochegrosse was barely twenty-four when he painted this huge picture, which he submitted to the Salon of 1883. It earned him a medal, and was purchased by the State.
And yet this is a distinctly surprising work, where the atrocities of war are depicted with raw violence – severed heads, pools of blood, lifeless bodies stretched out on the ground or hanging from the wall – at the same time as candid eroticism, such as Andromache's swelling bosom: an appealing show of female nudity placed well in view.
But what is shocking at first glance contributes to the power of a work that is impressive for both its conception and execution. Firstly, the picture is structured in a simple, powerful and dynamic way by a major diagonal rising through Andromache's arm and the guardrail of the staircase to the sinister figure of the murderous Odysseus at the top. Secondly, the force of the painting lies in the extreme realism of the details, with convincingly rendered archaeological elements such as the painted swastika symbolising Ancient Greece, the warriors' clothing and the walls of Troy: the late 19th century was awash with archaeological discoveries from the times of Ancient Greece. The painter undoubtedly took the figure of Andromache directly from life, in the shape of Marie Leblond, his wife and muse, whose beauty was the toast of Paris and who often appears Rochegrosse's paintings.