Théobald Chartran was a pupil of Cabanel. He won the Prix de Rome de Peinture in 1877 and enjoyed a successful career as a historical painter. He also had great success as a portrait painter, his reputation taking him to the United States where he made portraits of President Theodore Roosevelt and his wife.

Priam asking Achilles for the body of Hector was previously only known through a series of preparatory drawings kept in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Besançon. The work was the artist’s entry for the Prix de Rome in 1876, which was finally won by Joseph Wencker (Priam at the feet of Achilles, Paris, École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts), in competition with Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret (Madrid, French Embassy), Eugène Carrière (Pau, Musée des Beaux-Arts) and Jules Bastien-Lepage (Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts).

Like the latter’s contribution, Chartran’s composition is remarkable for its strong Michelangelesque influence. The figure of Achilles was inspired by the seated figure of Lorenzo de Medici, for the reflective pose, and of Guiliano de Medici, for the pronounced muscle structure, produced by Michelangelo for the Medici Chapel (Florence, San Lorenzo church). In the previous year, the celebrations for the 400th anniversary of Michelangelo’s birth (1475-1564) had contributed to a return to a Renaissance style which was more focused on expression than the ancient and neoclassical reference models.

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