West turns to a series of more classical mythological stories for his paintings between 1792 and 1802. These include Shakespeare, the Bible, and the first novel.
The ultimately disastrous wedding feast ends with its guests killing one another in a series of pitched battles, after one guest tried to abduct the bride.
Far from continuing to paint ‘modern history’, he embarked on major projects for religious paintings, some of which are superb.
Greek and Trojan forces join battle, with casualties on both sides. Two stories, one of a defeated warrior changing into a swan, the other of a woman changing into a man.
The ‘thousand ships’ of the Greek forces are gathered at Aulis, waiting for fair winds. A sign tells them how long the war against Troy will last, but they have to do something horrific first.
In the 8 years after painting the Death of Wolfe, he attempted a few more ‘modern history’ paintings, with varying success.
How a half-brother of Hector blamed himself for the death of Hesperia, who died of a snakebite, flung himself from a cliff, and was transformed into a diver.
Chione, who had been raped by Mercury and Apollo, is silenced by Diana’s arrow. Her father is transformed into a hawk, and King Ceyx and his grieving widow are changed into kingfishers.
The painting by which West is best known, it was claimed to have started a revolution in art, and to be the first modern history painting. Is there any truth?
The trickery involved in building the first city of Troy results in its destruction. How Achille’s parents marry, and what happens at their wedding.