The J. Paul Getty Museum

Death of Hippolytos

Object Details


Death of Hippolytos


Carle Vernet (French, 1758 - 1836)






Black chalk stumped and heightened with white; framing line in light brown ink, black chalk and incised

Object Number:



64.8 × 98.6 cm (25 1/2 × 38 13/16 in.)

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Object Description

In a balanced composition that controls the subject's violence, Carle Vernet captured the final dramatic moment of an ancient Greek tragedy. Within the scene's frozen motion, Hippolytos's dramatic yet rigid pose typifies the Neoclassical style. Nevertheless the artist emphasized his technical skill by contrasting the varied soft textures of the frothy clouds of sea spray, the horses' swirling manes and tails, and the leopard skin tied around Hippolytos's waist.

Hippolytos's stepmother Phaidra fell in love with him, but he rejected her affections. In revenge, she left a note accusing him of defiling her, and committed suicide. His enraged father Theseus banished Hippolytos and begged the gods to destroy him. As a result, the sight of a sea monster frightened the horses pulling Hippolytos in his chariot. Hippolytos lost control, and the horses dragged the hero to his death. Carle Vernet exhibited this drawing and its pendant, The Return from the Race,at the Salon of 1800, where they received wide acclaim. So popular were the scenes that another artist then produced engravings after them, which were exhibited at the Salon of 1808. The two drawings were auctioned in 1817, and did not reappear on the market until in the early 1990s.

March 3-22, 1817

Commisaire-Priseur Chariot, lot 810 (experts Sallé and Constantin)


Art Market (New York)

Salon of 1800 (1800)
  • Salon, Palais du Louvre (Paris), 1800
Master Drawings (October 13 to December 17, 1993)
  • Didier Aaron, Inc. (New York, New York), October 13 to November 5, 1990
  • Didier Aaron & Cie (Paris), November 18 to November 27, 1990
  • Didier Aaron Ltd. (London), December 6 to December 17, 1990
Enduring Myth: The Tragedy of Hippolytos and Phaidra (August 24 to December 4, 2006)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa (Malibu), August 24 to December 4, 2006
Gods and Heroes: European Drawings of Classical Mythology (November 19, 2013 to February 9, 2014)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), November 19, 2013 to February 9, 2014