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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Sculpture, Room 22, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries

Helen of Troy

Bust
after 1812 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

In Greek mythology Helen was the daughter of the god Jupiter and was famed for her great beauty. Jupiter, taking the form of a swan, seduced Leda, who gave birth to Helen from an egg, as well as Clytemnestra and Castor and Pollux, hence the eggshell seen here on Helen's head. Helen was married to Menelaus the King of Sparta. Whilst her husband was away, she was abducted by the Trojan prince Paris, to whom she was later married. So began a long war between the Greeks and Trojans. A number of other versions of this head are known, one of which is in the Palazzo Albrizzi in Venice. It was seen by the poet Lord Byron in 1812, who wrote:

‘In this beloved marble view
Above the works and thoughts of Man,
What nature could, but would not, do
And beauty and Canova can!’

Another version is in the collection of Lord Londonderry, having been presented to Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, later 2nd Marquess of Londonderrry, in 1816 (see 'Canova Ideal Heads', ed. K. Eustace (exh. cat.), The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1997, pp. 84-5, cat. no. 4). The V&A's Helen was presented to the Museum by the National Portrait Gallery in 1930, having been purchased at auction for its pedestal in 1929 from Stratton Park, Hampshire.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Carved marble
Brief Description
Bust, marble, of Helen of Troy, by Antonio Canova (Italian), after 1812
Physical Description
Bust in marble of Helen of Troy looking downwards, the face framed in long ringlets. The top of the head covered with half an eggshell, reflecting the story of her birth, her mother being Leda, her father Jupiter, taking the form of a swan.
Dimensions
  • Height: 64cm
  • Width: 30cm
  • Depth: 30cm
Gallery Label
Antonio Canova (1757–1822) Helen of Troy After 1812 In Greek mythology, Helen, the daughter of the god Jupiter, was famed for her beauty. She was married to Menelaus, King of Sparta, but the Trojan prince Paris abducted her, triggering a ten-year war between the Greeks and Trojans. Canova, who was the most celebrated sculptor in Europe in the 1810s, carved several versions of this bust. Lord Byron wrote a poem in 1812 after seeing one of the versions in Venice. Rome Marble Possibly formerly in the Earl of Northbrook’s collection in Stratton Park, Hampshire(2021)
Object history
Possibly once in the collection of the Earl of Northbrook.
Subject depicted
Summary
In Greek mythology Helen was the daughter of the god Jupiter and was famed for her great beauty. Jupiter, taking the form of a swan, seduced Leda, who gave birth to Helen from an egg, as well as Clytemnestra and Castor and Pollux, hence the eggshell seen here on Helen's head. Helen was married to Menelaus the King of Sparta. Whilst her husband was away, she was abducted by the Trojan prince Paris, to whom she was later married. So began a long war between the Greeks and Trojans. A number of other versions of this head are known, one of which is in the Palazzo Albrizzi in Venice. It was seen by the poet Lord Byron in 1812, who wrote:



‘In this beloved marble view

Above the works and thoughts of Man,

What nature could, but would not, do

And beauty and Canova can!’



Another version is in the collection of Lord Londonderry, having been presented to Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, later 2nd Marquess of Londonderrry, in 1816 (see 'Canova Ideal Heads', ed. K. Eustace (exh. cat.), The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1997, pp. 84-5, cat. no. 4). The V&A's Helen was presented to the Museum by the National Portrait Gallery in 1930, having been purchased at auction for its pedestal in 1929 from Stratton Park, Hampshire.
Bibliographic References
  • Pope-Hennessy, John. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: HMSO, 1964. cat. no. 704. fig. no. 694.
  • Victoria and Albert Museum, Review of the Principal Acquisitions During the Year 1930. London. pp. 4, 5.
  • Cf. Canova e la Venere Vincitrice. Rome, 2007. p. 241.
  • Cf. Padiyar, S. Review of the exhibition Canova e la Venere Vincitrice. The Burlington Magazine. CL. January 2008. p. 59.
  • Villing, Alexandra, J. Lesley Fitton, Victoria Turner and Andrew Shapland. Troy: Myth and Reality. Exhibition Catalogue, London, British Museum. London: Thames & Hudson, 2019, pp. 262-63, fig. 265
Collection
Accession Number
A.46-1930

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record createdAugust 14, 2006
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