Antoine Wiertz : Battle of the Greeks and Trojans for the corpse of Patroclus (1830-1865)

(Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium)

A painting by the Belgian artist Antoine Joseph Wiertz (1806-1865). The depicted scene comes from the Iliad, written by the Greek author Homer. Patroclus was the son of the Argonaut Menoetius and the best friend and brother-in-arms of the Greek hero Achilles. According to the Iliad, the Trojan woman Chryseis was captured during the siege of Troy and the Greek king Agamemnon of the Achaeans took Chryseis as a war prize. When Chryses, a priest of Apollo and father of Chryseis, came to Agamemnon to ask for the return of his daughter, Agamemnon refuses and insults Chryses. The god Apollo then retaliates by unleashing a plague on the Greek army. Agamemnon is forced to return Chryses to her father to end the plague but Agamemnon compensates himself for this loss by taking Briseis, a Trojan woman who was captured by Achilles. Achilles is offended by this and refuses to take further part in the Trojan War. When the Trojans attack the Greek army, the Greeks begin to suffer terrible losses. Patroclus sees this and pleads with Achilles to rejoin the fight. Achilles himself refuses to fight but allows Patroclus to take his place and lead the Myrmidons. Patroclus puts on Achilles' armour and together with the Myrmidons they are able to push back the Trojans. Patroclus however is killed in the fight by the Trojan hero Hector and takes Achilles' armour from the body of Patroclus. Maddened with grief, Achilles rejoins the fight and eventually manages to kill Hector who drags Hector's body from his chariot around the walls of Troy. Wiertz made several versions of this subject, this one is from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts and comes from 1830-1865.