THE GREAT CENTURY
Oil on canvas.
24.8 x 60.2 inches.
Inscription on the frame: «HECTOR ADEST SECUMQUE DEOS IN PRAELIA DUCIT »
This is a rare episode of the Trojan War, told by Ovidius in his 13th book, seldom represented. Helped by the Gods, Hector, a Trojan prince, defends the walls of his city. At the first level, on the right, Priam, king of Troy, recuperates the remains of one of his sons, killed by Ajax. Hector throws himself to fight, terrorizing even the bravest warriors, as Ulysses, who flees in the shadows in the direction of the Daenien fleet. At his feet, Ajax, adorned with a red plume, confronts him with a spear. Reproaching Ulysses for having fled without helping Nestor, Ajax invokes his cause and his bravery before his cowardly rival.
By its composition and its subject, our painting is similar to The Combat of Joshua (Canvas, 76.3 x 103.1 inches) conserved in the Fine Arts Museum of Brest (see P. Rosenberg, “Acquisitions de tableaux français du XVIIème siècle”, in the Revue du Louvre, 1972, n. 4-5 m page 306, reproduced in figure 9). A painter of historic scenes and portraits, painting curator to the King at the Gramont Palace, René Antoine Houasse is one of the nearest collaborators of Charles Le Brun, author of great decorations in Versailles, such as the ceiling of the Salon de l’Abondance, as well as of Mythological paintings for the Grand Trianon. Born in Paris, Houasse turns academician in 1673. He later goes to Madrid to work for King Charles II. His son Michel Ange Houasse succeeds him as painter to the King in Madrid. René Antoine Houasse then goes to Rome to direct the Académie de France from 1699 until 1704.