The Anger of Achilles by Jacques-Louis David
The Anger of Achilles was one of Jacques-Louis David’s last paintings, produced during his exile in Brussels following the Bourbon Restoration in France.
David, a man of fierce patriotic spirit, spent his last years as an expatriate, exiled from a France that he could no longer recognize. Too proud to request a pardon from King Louis XVIII, he painted fellow exiles and a handful of mythological scenes.
David depicts one of these mythological scenes in The Anger of Achilles.
The scene is from Euripides’ play, Iphigenia at Aulis, which takes place before the Trojan War. When the Greeks assembled to sail to Troy, the gods would not send wind for the ships, requiring King Agamemnon to sacrifice his daughter as a price for the voyage.
Agamemnon summons Iphigenia to Aulis under false pretenses, telling her mother that she will be married to Achilles. Achilles offers to rescue Iphigenia, but she refuses, insisting that she be sacrificed on behalf of her country.
Achilles respects her decision, but is torn in the moment that she is led away, as he still desires to save her. In a similar way, David was torn when it came to the fate of his country – a fate that he could do nothing about.
When you examine the clothing of the characters, you will see the French Tricolor – a flag no longer in use after the Bourbon Restoration.
This painting is housed at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. It was truly an honor to see such a meaningful painting by a magnificent artist.