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The Abduction of Helen

Artist:
Giuseppe Salviati (Giuseppe Porta, called Il Salviati) (Italian, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana ca. 1520–ca. 1575 Venice)
Date:
mid-16th century
Medium:
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, heightened with white (partly oxidized), over traces of black chalk, on light blue paper.
Dimensions:
11 15/16 x 15 1/8 in. (30.3 x 38.4 cm)
Classification:
Drawings
Credit Line:
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
Accession Number:
1975.1.405
Not on view
A scene from Greek mythology, the sheet portrays the event that sparked the Trojan War – the abduction of Helen, the beautiful wife of Menelaus (King of Sparta), by Paris, the prince of Troy. Helen, with arms upraised, struggles against her captor in the background, while the dynamically posed sailors, straining to navigate the boat, form the center point of the drama. The drawing may represent a study for a fresco that adorned the façade of a building in Venice, a type of painting for which Giuseppe Salviati was renowned. In 1548, the sixteenth-century writer, Pietro Aretino wrote to Salviati praising him for his chiaroscuro frescoes that adorned the palaces along the Grand Canal in Venice (none of which survive today).
Thomas Lawrence, London (?); William Mayor, London (Lugt 2799); Jeffery Whitehead, London; Whitehead sale 1903, lot 22; [Garfield Galleries, Toronto]; Winters, Canada (?); sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, May 12, 1960, lot 73, ill.
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