L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

L'Éducation d'Achille par le centaure Chiron, by Jean-Baptiste Regnault, 1782

 "The Education of Achilles by the Centaur Chiron"

In Greek mythology, Chiron was held to be the premier centaur - something of a prince among centaurs - and notable for his youth-nurturing nature. Like the satyrs, centaurs were notorious for their lascivious ways, inclination to violence when intoxicated, and their generally uncouth behavior. Chiron, by contrast, was intelligent, civilized, and kind. But then he wasn't always thought to be related to the other centaurs; archaic mythology gives that he was sired - no pun intended - OK, yes it is - by the titan Cronus who had taken the form of a horse and impregnated the nymph Philyra. Later tradition ascribes his gentility to Nurture rather than Nature; Apollo and Artemis were his foster parents, and many of their personal attributes - music, archery, hunting, medicine, prophecy - became his as well. He would then pass on these skills to many of Greek mythology's great heroes, Achilles among them.

This painting is no "great work", certainly, but nice enough. And a good example of the late eighteenth century Neoclassical taste for dramatic mythological subjects. Well-drawn figures and drapery; balanced, graceful composition; richly contrasted lighting; warm but subtle coloration. But I have to say I'm distracted by the little tuft low down on Chiron's abdomen. Is that the correct location for that particular "place marker"? Really, it does cause one to ponder the specific anatomy of a centaur, doesn't it...?


Jean-Baptiste Regnault (9 October 1754, Paris – 12 November 1829, Paris), French painter. Born in the French capital, his first teacher was the history painter Jean Bardin, who took him to Rome when he was only fourteen. Four years later, having returned to Paris, he joined the studio of Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié. In 1776 he won the Prix de Rome with his "Alexander and Diogenes" and returned to Rome, where he spent the next four years at the Académie de France in the company of Jacques-Louis David and Jean-François-Pierre Peyron. In 1783 he was elected Academician; his diploma picture, the "Education of Achilles by Chiron" - this post's featured painting - is now in the Louvre.  He became very well known as a teacher; several of his students became celebrated artists in their own right, and his influence rivaled that of David. He was married twice, lived to the age of seventy-five, and is buried in Père-Lachaise.

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