The Judgement of Paris
(Jean Baptiste Marie Pierre)



The Judgement of Paris

Oil on canvas
25 x 31 ½ ins.

This is a study for Pierre’s important 1761 Salon entry, painted for the Prussian King, and now in the Royal Palace in Potsdam.

While the final composition was strongly criticised by Diderot in this 1761 Salon Annals (Seznec and Adhemar, Diderot Salons Vol. 1, Oxford, 1975, pp. 114-116; ill. In Diderot: Essais sur la peinture; Salons de 1759, 1761, 1762, Paris 1984, pp. 124-126), this exquisite oil study avoids its failings. Pierre depicts the moment immediately following Paris’ fabled judgement, a moment in the legend Diderot believed ill-chosen, although it is in fact the same one Boucher selected for his much-celebrated 1754 version of the subject (Wallace Coll. London; ill. No. 431, Ananoff, Boucher, vol. II, Paris 1976). Diderot implies that this post-climactic episode prompted Pierre to create a dissipated composition in which the losing goddesses, clumsily posed, depart awkwardly this way and that.

This largely justified criticism is not applicable to the oil study, however, in which the central figure group provides a stationary but animated core to the dynamic diagonal line formed by the departing goddesses as they fly off and beyond into the clouds. The entire composition is more economically designed, the figures are more physically activated with a greater sense of moment and even the landscape is charged with an almost baroque drama. The spontaneous brushwork, vivid colour and shimmering effects of light all combine to make this one of Pierre’s best and most satisfying works.

The Salon composition was sketched by Saint-Aubin in his 1761 Salon livret.

25 x 31 ½ ins.
Oil on canvas

PROVENANCE: Private Collection, Switzerland

Where is It?
Acquired by a collector through Stair Sainty Matthiesen Inc
Historical Period
Rococo - 1720-1780
Price band
Sold or not available