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Thetis Takes Achilles from the Centaur Chiron
by Pompeo Batoni,
1770, 226 x 297 cm


      This is the only known painting on this subject. The Russian Empress Catherine II commissioned the painting from Batoni and herself selected the theme, probably finding it in Giovanni Boccaccio's De Genealogia Deorum (The Genealogy of the Gods). In the 18th century scenes from the story of Achilles, hero of the Trojan War, were much in fashion. Achilles's mother, the goddess Thetis, gave him over to be brought up by the centaur Chiron. Learning that her son must die in the war against the Trojans she decided to deceive fate and removed the sleeping Achilles from Chiron, fleeing in a shell to the protection of King Lycomedes on the Island of Scyros. Forming the basis of Batoni's strict composition are two arches, the niche in the cave of Chiron with its herm, and the opening in the rocks, beyond which spreads the sea. The nymphs carefully carry the sleeping Achilles to the shell, while nearby, Thetis says farewell to Chiron. The ideal proportions of the figures recall ancient statues. The pure resonant colors of the robes - blue, red, white and pink - are set off against the calm brownish-grey of the cliffs.
— Compare: Achilles and the Centaur Chiron also by Batoni:

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