Art History at a Glance
The subject for the painting Helen of Troy was taken from Classical mythology. According to legend, Helen was considered the most beautiful mortal woman. Although she was married to Menelaus, the cunning Paris (with the assistance of the goddess Aphrodite) convinced Helen to leave her husband and run away with him to Troy. This act of betrayal eventually resulted in the Greeks declaring war on the Trojans. And so the legendary Trojan War, which was immortalized in the Iliad of Homer, began because Helen foolishly left her husband for another man. In this painting, artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti depicts the famous face that "launched a thousand ships". This face was modeled by blonde 'stunner' Fanny Cornforth. It is also worth noting that Rossetti included the following quote from Aeschylus about Helen of Troy on the back of this painting: "Destroyer of ships, destroyer of men, destroyer of cities".
David Rodgers has written this informative and engaging book about the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The book, which is part of the Phaidon Colour Library series, features many of Rossetti's most memorable paintings, including his Beata Beatrix and The Blessed Damozel.