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Thetis urges Achilles to return to the battle against Troy

, after 1640

WAG 1995.286

About this object

This ink drawing is a [poor] copy after a drawing by Rembrandt in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, dated around 1640. It shows the scene in which Thetis urges her son Achilles to re-join the battle against Troy.

Achilles is standing on the far left holding a sword, with his face turned to his mother. The famous warrior is shown grieving the death of his close friend Patroclus who had been killed by Hector, whilst wearing Achilles armour. Thetis has just returned to Achilles with new armour, including a shield, breastplate, helmet and greaves, forged by Hephaestus, the blacksmith of the gods. They are seen on the lower right of the canvas. Finding him still inconsolable, she urges Achilles to return to the fighting. She promised that she would ensure the body of Patroclus will not rot away by placing ambrosia and nectar in his nose while Achilles is away. Achilles finally agrees to return to the battlefield to avenge Patroclus’ death.

Achilles’ reaction to the death of Patroclus has led many to interpret their relationship as being greater than close friends. Though both men had relationships with women, the love between the two men is presented in many classical texts as outstripping these affairs. Many ancient texts penned in the 4th and 5th centuries, including Plato’s ‘Symposium’, present the pair explicitly as lovers. It was not unusual in Ancient Greece for men to have sexual and loving relationships with both men and women. Indeed, it was taken for granted that there was an erotic dimension to male relationships. The two warriors have more recently become symbolic of same-sex love and desire. In 2004 the writer Madeline Miller, won the Orange Prize for Fiction for her novel ‘The Song of Achilles’. It focuses on the pair’s journey as a tale of sexual awakening, where they discover their sexuality.

Object specifics

  • Other title(s)
    Thetis Begging Achilles to Renounce the Fight
  • Artist(s)
    Copied after Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch, born:1606-07-15, died:1669-10-04)
    Follower of Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Dutch, born:1606-07-15, died:1669-10-04)
  • Date
    after 1640
  • Materials
    Pen and brown ink with brown wash
  • Measurements
    paper: 18.8 cm x 27.7 cm
  • Physical description
    A pen and brown ink drawing of a scene in which Thetis (on the left) urges her son Achilles (standing twith his arms akimbo) to rejoin the battle against Troy.The figures on the far right, a soldier seated on the ground and the standing figure of ?Hephaestus, who has just made Achilles armour on his anvil, seem drawn by a different hand altogether, with heavy-handed outlines and cursory broadly-hatched shadings.
  • Related people
    Charles Robert Blundell (Previous owner); Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (Artist/maker); William Roscoe (Previous owner); The Trustees of The Weld Heirlooms Settlement (Previous owner)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 11300; Courtauld Photography Number: 504/46/37a
  • Credit line
    Purchased from the Trustees of the Weld Heirlooms Settlement with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, Sir Denis Mahon and British Nuclear Fuels in 1995
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Collection
    From the Walker Art Gallery collections

Ownership

Previous owners

  • The Trustees of The Weld Heirlooms Settlement

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1995
    Disposal method: Sold to the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside
  • Charles Robert Blundell

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Roscoe sale, 1816, bought by Slater on behalf of Charles Blundell
    Owned until: 1837
    Disposal method: By descent to the Weld family
  • William Roscoe

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1816
    Disposal method: Roscoe sale in 1816, part of lot 499

Inscriptions

Item inscriptions

  • Inscription text: not genuine of the school
    Inscription method: Pencil
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Base; Front; Mount
  • Inscription text: Rembrandt/ 165 / CWB Tutle: Thetis asking Achilles to renounce the fight [sic] / about 1633 / Kd.Kst.II 569
    Inscription method: Pencil [annotated]
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: 'Roscoe' tissue paper mount
Object view = Fine Art
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