The J. Paul Getty Museum

Achilles among the Daughters of Lycomedes

Object Details


Achilles among the Daughters of Lycomedes


Pietro Paolini (Italian (Lucchese), 1603 - 1681)




about 1625–1630


Oil on canvas

Object Number:



127 × 203.2 cm (50 × 80 in.)

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Object Description

Achilles, dressed in women's clothing, holds a shield while admiring a sword. Based on ancient legend, Achilles' mother, knowing that her son would die if he fought in the Trojan War, disguised him as a woman and entrusted him to King Lycomedes' household, where he lived among the king's daughters. When war threatened, Ulysses and other Greek chieftains were sent to fetch him, knowing they had to trick him into revealing himself. Cunningly, they deposited a heap of gifts before the women: jewelry, clothes, and other finery, but also a sword and shield. When it came time to select from the gifts, Achilles instinctively grasped the weapons, thus revealing his true identity.

Pietro Paolini placed his figures in a dark, shallow space, dramatically lighting the figure of Achilles. Additional highlights illuminate the faces of the other figures and pick out the shiny jewelry and weapons. The youthful, smooth complexions of Achilles and the king's daughters contrast with the aged, wrinkled appearances of Lycomedes and his wife.

by 1965 -

Private Collection (Rome, Italy)
Source: Ottani, Anna. Arte antica e moderna 30 (April/June 1965)

- 1978

P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., Ltd., London (L.2075), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978.

Paintings by Old Masters (June 7 to July 7, 1978)
  • P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., Ltd., London, June 7 to July 7, 1978

Ottani, Anna. "Integrazioni al catalogo del Paolini." Arte Antica e Moderna 30 (April/June 1965), p. 184, pl. 69a.

Paintings by Old Masters, exh. cat. (London: P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., Ltd., 1978), p. 26, no. 25, ill.

Nicholson, Benedict. The International Caravaggesque Movement: Lists of Pictures by Caravaggio and his Followers throughout Europe from 1590 to 1650 (Oxford: Phaidon, 1979), p. 77.

Fredericksen, Burton B., Jiří Frel, and Gillian Wilson. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook. 5th ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1980), p. 71.

Marini, Maurizio. "Gli esordi del Caravaggio e il concetto di 'natura' nei primi decenni del Seicento a Roma: Equivoci del caravaggismo." Artibus et Historiae 2, no. 4 (1981), p. 70, fig. 42.

Maccari, Patrizia Giusti. Pietro Paolini, pittore lucchese, 1603-1681 (Lucca: Maria Pacini Fazzi, 1987), pp. 64, 127, no. 42, ill.

Contini, Roberto, et al., eds. La pittura in Italia: Il Seicento. 2 vols. (Milan: Electa, 1989), vol. 2, p. 836.

Hall, Nicholas H. J., ed. Colnaghi in America: A Survey to Commemorate the First Decade of Colnaghi New York (New York: Colnaghi, 1992), p. 130.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 94, ill.