Thetis Brings The Arms Forged By Vulcan To Achilles by Henri Regnault (1843-1871)
Regnault embraced the male form and he had a thing for violence and gore. He would be a perfect artist for our own era.
He was the son of a famed chemist, and his career seemed headed for great things when he received the Prix de Rome in 1866. The prize was very big deal, the Academy Award of Painting, and it provided Regnault with the time and the money to study the Classics in Rome, and assured him fame.
Regnault was quickly bored by Rome though, experiencing traveler’s ennui, writing: “The Arch of Titus seems like a toy compared to the Arch of Titus that one has imagined.” He also experienced ennui from the touristy copies of the subjects expected to be knocked-out by the artists working in the Italian capital.
In the summer 1869, he finally left Rome for Africa, Spain and Morocco, seeking the light and colors that he brought to his most successful paintings, and thrilled European art lovers’ fascination for all things exotic.
That skill for depicting gore later seemed to portend Regnault’s own grisly death at Battle Of Buzenval near Paris during The Franco-Prussian War. His boyfriend, painter Georges Clairin, had to tracked down Regnault’s body among the many hundreds of soldiers killed in the battle. He had been shot in the head, gone at 27-years-old.
He was so beloved that monuments, eulogies, and national mourning in France followed. An obelisk in the woods near Buzenval where Regnault had been killed had been erected.
But, soon the art world had moved on and his style of graphic, exotic painting fell out of favor as The Impressionists came in to vogue. You can visit his monument today; you can find it near the 14th hole of a golf course that replaced the battlefield.
His work hangs in the world’s most important museums; his enchanting Salomé is at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art; the violent Automedon With The Horses Of Achilles (1868) can be found at Boston’s Museum Of Fine Arts; and the even more gruesome Summary Execution Under The Moorish Kings Of Grenada (1870) is nicely hung at The Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
Thetis Brings The Arms Forged By Vulcan To Achilles is the painting that won him that Prix de Rome. It’s a work of unusual force and distinction. Note the muscle tone on Achilles, that dude had been hitting the gym! He seems annoyed to have his mother interrupt his hookup.