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The Abduction of Helen by Paris
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Giovanni Francesco Susini
Italian, Florence, 1627; gilt bronze base, 1750
Bronze on a gilt bronze base
H: 26 3/4 x W: 13 1/2 x D: 13 1/4 in.
90.SB.32

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The subject of this tabletop bronze comes from Greek mythology. When the Trojan prince Paris abducted Helen, the beautiful wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta, and carried her off to the city of Troy, the Greeks responded by mounting an attack on the city, thus beginning the Trojan War. Both the bronze's subject--the Trojan War--and its small-scale format reveal the artist's interest in classical culture. The handling of the figures, however, shows the influence of Italian Mannerist sculpture of the 1600s. The sculptor, Giovanni Francesco Susini, welded the three nude figures together in an intensely dramatic composition. While Paris attempts to carry Helen off, she valiantly struggles against him. Below them a female servant protests. The women twist around the central spiral of Paris's lithe body. Susini arranges the figures as if on a stage; both Paris and Helen turn their faces toward the front. Yet, the spiral composition also encourages the viewer to walk around the piece, offering interesting alternate perspectives. From the sides and back, the details of the figures' exertion are visible: as he sinks his fingers into Helen's yielding flesh, the veins on Paris' hands project and Helen's hair flies loose.


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