24 5/8 x 21 3/8 x 17 1/16 in. (62.5 x 54.3 x 43.3 cm) (set into pedestal for Venus Victrix)
Horatio Greenough created this relief on a commission from Bostonian John Lowell Jr. while the latter was traveling in Europe. It illustrates more fully the classical story of Venus winning a golden apple in a contest with three other goddesses. Her promise to give Paris, the judge in the contest, a gift of the most beautiful woman in the world (who turns out to be Helen of Troy) in exchange for victory in the contest, kicked off the Trojan War. Greenough’s incorporation of the relief into the pedestal of his Venus Victrix, also in this exhibition, helps the viewer to remember the story and ultimately draw from it whatever moral seems fitting (“Be careful what you wish for,” “Beauty is only skin deep,” etc.). Such didactic messaging was a key component to neoclassical sculpture.
Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson for the Boston Athenæum.