The Trojan Women Setting Fire to Their Fleet

Artist: Claude Lorrain (Claude Gellée) (French, Chamagne 1604/5?–1682 Rome)

Date: ca. 1643

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 41 3/8 x 59 7/8 in. (105.1 x 152.1 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Fletcher Fund, 1955

Accession Number: 55.119


The Trojan women set fire to their ships in an effort to end years of wandering after the fall of Troy. The clouds and rain in the distance presage the storm sent by Jupiter at Aeneas’s request to quench the blaze. Claude noted in his Liber Veritatis that the picture was painted in Rome for Girolamo Farnese. The learned prelate, who returned to the city in 1643, must have chosen this episode from Virgil’s Aeneid (V:604–95) to allude to his years of itinerant service as papal nuncio combating Calvinism in remote Alpine cantons of the Swiss Confederation.