Pierre Paul Prud’hon (c. 1758–1823) died when he was nearing the completion of this painting, and the finishing touches were applied by his student, Charles Pompée Le Boulanger de Boisfrémont. The artwork is set in the time period of the legendary Trojan War, with the woman and child in the center of the painting representing Andromache and Astyanax—the wife and child of the Trojan champion, Hector. Their family was described by the ancient poet Homer in his Iliad, who wrote, “Andromache came to meet him [Hector], and her waiting-woman carried the little boy in her arms, their baby son and Hector’s darling, lovely as a star, whom Hector called Scamandrius, but everyone else Astyanax, ‘Town-lord’, because his father was the one defence of Ilium” (The Iliad, Book 6, approximately line 400). Sadly, in the painted scene above, Hector had since been killed by Achilles, the Trojans were defeated by the Greek army, and the widowed Andromache was now a captive. After her capture, Andromache was forced to marry Neoptolemus (sometimes also called Pyrrhus), who can be seen dressed in red within the painting, standing behind the women. Unfortunately, the loss of Hector and a forced marriage to the son of Hector’s killer was not all that Andromache suffered. Young Astyanax, too, would be murdered before the Greeks and their captives departed from Troy.
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.