Hector, the commander of the Trojan armies, readies himself to depart for battle while his wife Andromache weeps on his shoulder. Their son Astyanax whimpers in the arms of his nurse, frightened by Hector's plumed helmet and spear. Benjamin West, like many artists, was impressed by the grandeur and simplicity of ancient Greek art. He chose this classical subject, drawn from Homer's Iliad, for two paintings as well as this drawing.
The drawing's provenance is unusual. West dedicated this work to the Polish patriot Thaddeus Kosciuszko during the Pole's brief visit to London in June 1797 after his release from a Russian prison. They met on June 7, and Kosciuszko received the drawing three days later. By December he had moved to Philadelphia, where he became close friends with then-vice president Thomas Jefferson. Kosciuszko later presented the drawing to Jefferson, who kept it at his home Monticello.