Florence Claxton, 'The Choice of Paris: An Idyll'

Florence Claxton, 'The Choice of Paris: An Idyll'

Florence Claxton (worked from 1859 to 1889)
'The Choice of Paris: An Idyll'
1860
Watercolour
Museum no. E.1224-1989

Florence Anne Claxton produced this watercolour as a satire on the work and ideas of the Pre-Raphaelites, a group of painters who were active between 1848 and 1853.  It caused a sensation when it was exhibited at the Portland Gallery in London (where the Pre-Raphaelites themselves had exhibited), and it was reproduced as a full-page spread in 'The Illustrated London News', a high-circulation national weekly magazine.

The satire is packed with references to members of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood and their paintings. Here the artist John Everett Millais (1829-1896) plays the part of Paris choosing the most beautiful of the 'Three Graces'.  According to mythology, the goddess of discord, Eris, threw a golden apple inscribed ‘to the fairest’ down to a wedding party attended by the gods, because she was angry at not being invited. The apple was given to the young Prince of Troy, Paris, to award to the most beautiful goddess. Here Millais as Paris is awarding the golden apple to an angular, medieval-style figure who represents the Pre-Raphaelite ideal.

The 'truth-to-nature' concept that formed the basis of most Pre-Raphaelite art is parodied by the man examining the surface of the outside wall with opera glasses.