John Deare, an English sculptor who spent his entire professional career in Rome, was commissioned by the Royal Academy to make this relief for an exhibition in 1787. In style and subject matter it reflects the neoclassical taste for perfection. The philosophers of the Age of Reason believed that man and society, through the systematic study and emulation of both classical learning and arts, could return to a Golden Age paralleling that of classical antiquity. Deare's relief embodies this ideal. Deare's scene is from Homer's Iliad, a literary source for which contemporary archaeological discoveries had created renewed interest. The enthroned Jupiter sits among the gods at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis (at left), to which all except the goddess of discord, Eris, were invited. The spiteful Eris tossed a golden apple inscribed "to the fairest" among the guests, and Minerva, Juno, and Venus each claimed it. Jupiter, refusing to pick the most beautiful of this formidable trio, has handed the apple to his messenger, Mercury, who flies above, giving him instructions to pass it, and the thankless task, to the mortal prince, Paris. Deare represents the three goddesses challenging Jupiter. Paris's decision will ultimately lead to the Trojan War, here evoked by Mars, god of war, shown at the far right. Deare's carving varies from nearly flat background figures to others almost completely in the round, a Renaissance technique that gives the illusion of three-dimensional space. The forms of the bodies are idealized, smooth, and refined. This is the most important English neoclassical relief in the United States.More...
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- Los Angeles County Museum of Art. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2003.