Monday, August 15, 2011

Was Helen Worth All That Bother?

Helen of Troy, legends have it, was the most beautiful woman of her day who was the spark that set off the Trojan war. Actually it gets pretty complicated, as the Wikipedia link above indicates, but we'll go with the beautiful part.

Many artists over the years found it hard to resist the appeal of painting the most beautiful woman in the world, so "portraits" of Helen abound. A few are shown below along with some actresses who portrayed her in movies.


The Abduction of Helen of Troy - Cesare Dandini (1596-1657)

Paris and Helen - J-L David - 1788

By Frederick Sandys - c.1867

By Sir Edward Poynter - 1881

By Evelyn De Morgan - 1898

The Private Life of Helen of Troy - book cover

Maria Corda in The Private Life of Helen of Troy - 1927

Rossana Podesta as Helen - 1956

Diane Kruger as Helen - 2004

I find it interesting that Helen often seems to be a blonde or otherwise has light brown or red hair (Poynter's version is an exception). I've never gone nuts over blondes (though I have nothing against them). But the artists who did choose to depict her as blonde almost surely had that preference.

What we have here is a demonstration of subjectivity in art. Clearly the casting directors and painters strained to select an appearance that was to represent the ultimate in female beauty. (Okay, I'm not so sure about Sandy's scowling redhead.) Yet these Helens differ. And even though they differ, there's not one I'd be inclined to abduct and haul off to Troy. However, if she had dark hair and gray eyes ....


pinwheelwriting said...

Lol - the redhead threw me off a bit, too! She actually looks a bit like my daughter (back when my daughter was twelve).

Greg said...

Helen's light-colored hair actually originates in antiquity. Both the Iliad and Odyssey describe her as "fair-haired Helen." (Which led to Hesiod's famous depiction of the Greek voyage "in boats over the great gulf of the sea to Troy for the sake of fair-haired Helen.")

There is some disagreement among classicists as to whether her hair was blond or red.

Jingizu said...

Helen was blond. She is called "fair-haried Helen" as well as "Helen of the golden hair" by Homer.

But I agree, I do prefer dark hair and grey eyes, ala Tolkien [Luthien and Arwen]. lol

I would also not abduct a single one of the images.

Helen said...
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Unknown said...

You don't know Helen is blonde and those descriptions certainly don't say so definitively.