Helen of Troy

Helen of Troy
Bust of Helen of Troy by Antonio Canova at Victoria and Albert Museum, London

There are surprisingly few interesting images of Helen of Troy in the history of art, although there are many. Maybe painting the world's most beautiful woman was a challenge. Or it produced strange offspring, like this painting of her birth: that's not Helen though. That's her and Clytemnestra emerging from one egg and Castor and Pollux from the other (I'm not sure which is which). Standing over them are her parents, Leda and the Swan. It's a long story...

Cesare da Sesto: "Leda and the Swan" (between 1505 and 1510), Wilton House, England

Was Helen a victim? The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood appeared to have thought so, as did those who were influenced by them. Below is Helen of Troy by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1863), and art critics read all sorts of emotions into that face: anxiety, sorrow, etc.

The Kunsthalle, Hamburg.

Below is - let's agree - a less complimentary Helen of Troy by Frederick Sandys (1867). Did this face launch a thousand ships?

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

Below is Helen of Troy by Evelyn de Morgan (1898). For another of her paintings, click here.