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Hector taking leave of Andromache

Angelica Kauffman RA (Chur 1741 – Rome 1807)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

1768 (exhibited at Society of Artists)

Materials

Oil on canvas, giltwood frame

Measurements

1575 x 2010 x 75 mm

Place of origin

England

Order this image

Collection

Saltram, Devon

NT 872177

Caption

Hector, son of the King of Troy, prepares to go to battle. He wears his plumed helmet and holds a spear. He stands hand-in-hand with Andromache, his devoted wife, in front the gates of Troy. A nurse is holding their son Astyanax. The child prefers to look into her eyes rather than towards his father, who is attired for war. The scene depicts an episode from Homer's epic poem 'The Iliad'. The wife of the first owner of the picture, Theresa Parker, declared in a letter to her brother: 'The prettiest and I think the best she [Angelica Kauffman] ever did is the painting of Hector and Andromache.' The painting was exhibited at the Royal Society of Arts in 1768 and at the first Royal Academy exhibition in 1769. The artist was a founder member of the Royal Academy and a friend of Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Summary

Oil painting on canvas, Hector taking leave of Andromache by Angelica Kauffman RA (Chur 1741 – Rome 1807), 1768. The scene depicts an episode from Homer's Iliad 6: 394-96. Hector and Andromache stand together in front of a classical building, representing the gates of Troy, behind them on the left, a nurse is holding a child, their son Astyanax. Hector is wearing his plumed helmet and his warriors clothes with a red over garment and holds a spear in his left hand. Frame: Carved and oil giltwood frame with laurel leaf on sight edge, a carved pea moulding on the outer edge of the face and a gadroon moulding on the outer back edge.

Full description

Angelica Kauffman sent this Homeric painting to the inaugural exhibition of the Royal Academy in 1769. Hector Taking Leave of Andromache depicts a famous episode from Homer’s great epic, The Iliad: the doomed Trojan hero, Hector, heading for battle, bids a reluctant, lingering but ultimately steadfast farewell to his wife Andromache and their child, Astyanax. Kauffman likely also drew inspiration from Comte de Caylus’s recently published handbook Tableaux tirés de l'Iliade, de l'Odyssée d'Homere et de l'Eneide de Virgile (1757). Hector and Andromache hold hands and gaze tenderly at each other, contrasting with their son, Astyanax, who looks at the nurse’s eyes instead of his father's, potentially referencing the boy’s fear of Hector’s ‘nodding’ helmet in the Iliad. Here, Kauffman explores her trademark interests in masculine heroism and feminine fortitude, and in the conflicts between public duty and private life by fusing a storyline about heroic sacrifice with a more intimate, domestic narrative of farewell. This painting was one of a set of four classical scenes probably commissioned for the Grand Saloon at Saltram House in Devon, but which instead hung on the main staircase there. These paintings together contrasted love and war, male and female roles, passion and judgement, and represented difficult choices.

Provenance

Exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1768 and Royal Academy in 1769; acquired by John Parker, later Lord Boringdon (1734/5 – 1788) and thereafter by descent;accepted by HM Treasury in part payment of death-duties from the executors of Edmund Robert Parker, 4th Earl of Morley (1877-1951) and transferred to the National Trust in 1957

Credit line

Saltram, The Morley Collection (accepted in lieu of tax by HM Treasury, and transferred to The National Trust in 1957)

Makers and roles

Angelica Kauffman RA (Chur 1741 – Rome 1807), artist

Exhibition history

Troy: myth and reality, British Museum, London, 2019 - 2020

References

Lady Victoria Manners and G. C. Williamson, Angelica Kauffmann, 1924, pp. 37, 200 Saltram, Devon, 1957: [National Trust], 1957, pp.8,15 Saltram, Devon, 1967 The Saltram Collection, Plympton, Devon [National Trust; F. St. John Gore], 1967, p.41 Boerner 1979 C.G. Boerner, Angelika Kauffmann (1741-1810) und ihre Zeit: Graphik un Zeichungen von 1760- 1810, Neue Lagerliste 70, Dusseldorf 1979, no.101 Hallet 2018: Mark Hallet and Sarah Victoria Turner (eds.), The Great Spectacle: 250 years of the summer exhibition (exh. cat.), London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2018., Cat. 8 Villing, Fitton, Donnellan and Shapland 2019: Alexandra Villing, J. Lesley Fitton, Victoria Donnellan and Andrew Shapland, Troy: Myth and Reality (exh. cat.), Thames and Hudson, British Museum 21 November 2019 – 8 March 2020, Fitton, Villing and Donnellan, pp.239-241

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