Explanation

  • The literary source for Hector’s and Andromache’s taking leave of each other is the 6th book of Homer’s Iliad: the heroic Trojan prince Hector, referred to as “the saviour of the city”, is to go to war and is taking leave of his wife Andromache and his son Astyanax. She has a presentiment that her husband will lose his life in the war and with tears in her eyes she tries to keep him back. Hector, meanwhile, is not to be stopped, and Andromache’s worst fears are realised. Hector is killed, the city falls, and as though this were not enough, Astyanax, their son, is thrown from the city wall and dies. According to Homer, at the moment of his departure, Hector wishes for his little son that he might one day become an even greater hero than he himself. In his painting, Eckersberg suggests this wish by allowing Hector to raise his son high above his head, but if the beholder is familiar with the Iliad, as the citizens of the Golden Age very largely were, the conspicuous city wall cannot but act as a reminder of how tragically it all ended for the little family. When, towards the end of his stay in Rome, 1836/37, Thorvaldsen modelled the relief Hector’s Farewell to Andromache, he had undoubtedly studied Eckersberg’s small painting of the same motif in his collection. The Hector of the relief is raising his son in exactly the same way as the Hector in the painting.

Motif / Theme