This gloomy scene, painted by the French artist Jacques-Louis David (c. 1748–1825), depicts the widowed Andromache mourning over the body of her husband, Hector—the slain champion of Troy. He had been defeated in a duel by Achilles, who went on to dishonor the body of the dead hero. With the help of the god, Hermes, King Priam of the Trojans was able to convince Achilles to return Hector’s neglected body. As the remains of the deceased hero were carted into the city, allowing the family to finally mourn, the event painted above was allowed to ensue. The poet, Homer, described the scene in The Iliad, writing, “When the family had brought Hector into the palace, they laid him on an elaborate bed and set beside him dirge-singers to lead the laments and chant their melancholy songs, while the women took up the cry. White-armed Andromache, holding the head of man-slaying Hector between her hands, began her dirge” (The Iliad, book 24, approximately line 720). Of course, the death of Hector was only the start of Troy’s troubles. The Greek army camped outside the walls would soon sneak into the city, bringing about the destruction of Priam’s kingdom.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- The Iliad by Homer, translated by E. V. Rieu and edited/introduced by Peter Jones. New York: Penguin Classics, 2014.