F. I. Platzer, The Rape of Helen
The Rape of Helen
Governor’s Palace, Brno, Moravia, Czech Republic
Moravian Gallery, Brno
Johann Georg Platzer (1704, St. Michael-1761, St. Michael)
Oil on metal
H: 40.7 cm; w: 59.7 cm
Private owner, Brno
Paris's kidnap of Helen, the beautiful wife of the king of Sparta, opens Homer's Iliad, an epic of the Trojan War. For artists, it provided a frequent source of moral, historical and entertaining scenes from the renaissance onwards.
The drama of the event that led to the destruction of Troy is conveyed in detailed rendering of multiple figures moving through the picture area. Brutal, gory scenes are omitted; the artist presents the event as a theatrical spectacle. The suspense of the scene is enhanced by the presence of the elements: the wind blowing the flags, Helen's vermilion-red attire and pushing the sails of fleeing ships, and the sea. The ancient architecture of the harbour, with Tuscan columns and obelisks, was standard in the repertoire of 18th-century decorative painting. The warrior with erect shield on the left paraphrases Lysippus's “Borghese Warrior”, a staple object of study at art academies. The counterpart picture of The Rape of Helen was The Rape of the Sabines, a legend associated with the foundation of Rome and, according to Virgil, the continuation of Troy.
Detailed narrative cabinet pictures with a host of figures are typical of the oeuvre of this academic Viennese painter who, together with Franz Janneck, specialised in the kind of decorative paintings favoured by art collectors. Inspired by Dutch 17th-century painting and, in particular, by Rudolphine mannerism, Platzer coined an original style, highlighting the sensory qualities of surfaces and things with scattered light and contrasting colours.
A detailed narrative cabinet picture, typical of this academic Viennese painter. Inspired by Dutch 17th-century painting, in particular by Rudolphine mannerism, he coined an original style highlighting the sensory qualities of surfaces and things with scattered light and contrasting colours.
Moravian Gallery, Brno
Marked PG bottom left on the warrior’s shield.
Acquired around 1940 from a private owner in Brno.
Gothard Agath, Johann Georg Platzer. Ein Geselschaftsmaler Wiener Barocks (1704–1761), Belvedere 8, 1929, pp. 79–83.
Vlasta Kratinová, Barock in Mähren, Wien, 1988, p. 66, cat. 39.
Ulrich Becker (ed), Delikatesse der Malerei. Meisterwerke von Johann Georg Platzer, Graz, 2007, pp. 100–101, cat. 19.
Zora Wörgötter "The Rape of Helen" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. https://baroqueart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;BAR;cz;Mus11;27;en
Prepared by: Zora WörgötterZora Wörgötter
AFFILIATION: Moravian Gallery in Brno
TITLE: Museum Curator and Local Co-ordinator
Zora Wörgötter studied Applied Painting at the Secondary School of Applied Arts, Video Art (Faculty of Fine Arts) at the University of Technology in Brno and Art History and Ethnology (Faculty of Arts) at Masaryk University, Brno. She has worked at the Moravian Gallery since 1997 and was curator of the Ancient Art Collection up until 2008. Specialising in Dutch and Central European painting of the 17th and 18th centuries, she has participated in the preparation of several exhibitions, catalogues and research projects in the Czech Republic and abroad, and published in the Moravian Gallery Bulletin, Opuscula historiae artium, and other journals. She is co-ordinator of the Art History Database www.ahice.net for the Czech Republic.
Copyedited by: Jiří KroupaJiří Kroupa
AFFILIATION: Department of the History of Art (Faculty of Arts) Masaryk
Professor Jiří Kroupa studied Art History, History and Sociology Masaryk University, Brno. He was a curator at the Kroměříž Museum and the Moravian Gallery in Brno before joining the staff at Masaryk University in 1988 (Head of the Department 1992–2002; Professor 1999 to present). His particular fields of interest are in the history of architecture, 18th-century cultural history and the methodology of art history. His long list of publications includes an edition on the architect Franz Anton Grimm and an essay “The alchemy of happiness: the Enlightenment in the Moravian context”. He was contributing editor for the volume Dans le miroir des ombres. Moravie a la age baroque. 1670–1790 (2002).
Translation by: Irma Charvátová
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: CZ 28