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Regnault's Automedon with the Horses of Achilles

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Regnault's Automedon with the Horses of Achilles

Henri Regnault's Automedon with the Horses of Achilles looms large in the East wing of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts. The painting is over ten feet by ten feet in area and is truly spectacular. It is impossible to miss this massive work of art when walking through the hall. The painting is encased by a beautiful wooden frame and hangs in between many other outstanding paintings. This paper will cover a description of the painting, the meaning of the painting, and the background of how the painting was brought to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

I selected this picture because as soon as I walked into the Evans wing it jumped right out at me. The paintings huge size and grandeur drew my attention. I like the use of bold colors and strong details. The painting evokes an image of power with the muscled Automedon holding two giant horses.

Full of youthful fire and passion, this mammoth painting was painted while Regnault, the son of the director of the Sevres porcelain manufactory, was a student in Rome.


Derived from Homer's epic, the Iliad, the painting depicts Automedon, chariot driver for Achilles, struggling to control Xanthos and Balios, the horses that will carry the Greek hero into his final, fatal battle. Exhibited around the United States in the 1870s and 1880s, the painting was called "highly seasoned and unhealthful food which renders the palette insensitive to the milder flavors of what is wholesome." Following petitions by Boston artists and art students, this work was purchased by public subscription and presented to the Museum of Fine Arts in 1890.(

Henri Regnault wowed the art world with this painting owing to it's unusual color scheme. The science of oil painting came to it's full fruition in the nineteenth century. The palette now included dazzling colors which could electrify a painting. First a student of Cabanel's and later influenced by Mariano Fortuny y Marshal, Regnault was one of the rising stars of the Romantic movement. He lived a passionate life, traveling to the Middle East even though he was broke, hanging out in Spain as it rose up against Queen Isabella the Second, he loved excitement and adventure.

Henri Regnault predicted that he would not live long. Less than a year after this painting was completed his prediction came true; while fighting in the Franco-Prussion war, even


though he was exempt from military service because of his artist status, he died in the battle of Buzenfal at the age of twenty eight. (

The painting is very expressive as it shows the strength of the humanity and nature. The human is actually winning this battle with the horses. The dark colors also accompany this idea. The lighting is rather dim in this painting with a stormy sky above. The perspective is from floor level making the viewer look up in order to appreciate the full specter of this painting. The massive size of the painting



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