Aeneas and Creusa
Oil on linen
Unframed: 6 ft. 2 in. × 56 in. (188 × 142.2 cm) Framed: 6 ft. 7 1/2 in. × 61 in. × 2 3/4 in. (201.9 × 154.9 × 7
Drawn from Book II of Virgil's Aeneid, the painting depicts the moment when Aeneas and his family-his elderly father, Anchises, his son, and wife, Creusa-decide to flee Troy after a series of foreboding celestial omens, including lightning and a falling meteor (a popular astronomical subject in artistic and scientific circles during the late eighteenth century). The identity of the scene is confirmed by the presence in the distant sky of the meteor mentioned obliquely by Virgil in his text. Until recently-since at least 1867-the painting was thought to be a depiction of the Trojan hero, Hector, taking his leave of his wife, Andromache, and his father, Priam, and son, Astyanax, as recounted in Book VI of Homer's Iliad. The artist's companion piece to this painting is "Chryseis Returned to Her Father Chryses," also in the Society's collection (accession No. 1865.1). True to the academic standards of his day, West believed that noble historical subjects drawn from classical antiquity exemplified timeless virtues to be admired and emulated. Dubbed the "American Raphael," West settled permanently in England in 1763 intent on succeeding as a grand-manner history painter and his London studio became a Mecca for American artists studying abroad. A founding member of the Royal Academy in 1768, he became president in 1792 and enjoyed royal patronage as History Painter to George III.
Evans, Grose, Benjamin West and the Taste of his Times, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1959, pp. 44-5. Rosenblum, Robert, "Benjamin West and the Taste of His Times by Grose Evans," The Art Bulletin, Vol. 42, No. 1, March 1960, pp. 76-9. Evans, Forinda, Benjamin West and His American Students, Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1980, pp. 11-23. Koke, Richard J., American Landscape and Genre Paintings in the New York Historical Society, Vol. I, New York: The New-York Historical Society, 1982, pp. 259-61. Erffa, Helmut von, The Paintings of Benjamin West, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986, pp. 256.
Gift of William Henry Webb
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.