Theofilos Hadjimichael (Greek, 1871-1934) The Trojan Horse 51.3 x 72 cm.

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Lot 11
Theofilos Hadjimichael
(Greek, 1871-1934)
The Trojan Horse 51.3 x 72 cm.

Sold for £ 40,062 (US$ 49,957) inc. premium
Theofilos Hadjimichael (Greek, 1871-1934)
The Trojan Horse
signed in Greek (lower left); dated '1925' and inscribed on the upper and lower part
natural pigments on zinc
51.3 x 72 cm.


  • Painted in 1925.

    Please note that due to Greek regulation, this lot cannot be exported from Greece and will be available for viewing and inspection in Athens either by appointment or during the Athens Preview, 2-4 April 2019. This work will be located in Athens during the auction.

    A. Embeirikos collection, Athens.
    Private collection, Athens.

    Theofilos, Commercial Bank of Greece edition, Athens 1966, no. 191 (illustrated).
    G. Petris, The Painter Theofilos, Exandas editions, Athens 1978, p. 42 (discussed), no. 5 (illustrated).

    A national treasure and an artistic gem by the 'wandering magician of Greek history'1, this fascinating canvas explores a mythical, ideal world that stirred the artist's imagination since his early childhood.

    The scene illustrates the closing episodes of the Trojan War as related by Homer in his Iliad: the death of Paris, the Trojan horse and the sack of Troy. After laying siege to the city for ten years, the Greeks finally took it by ruse rather than force. Pretending to give up their enterprise and embarking in their ships, they left behind an enormous wooden horse in which their best men were hidden. Despite priest Laocoon's warnings, the Trojans, overjoyed at seeing the siege come to an end, dragged the horse inside their walls. While they feasted that night, the Greeks crept out of their hideout, opened the city gates to their companions and sacked Troy.2

    The wealth of detail is a vehicle of initiation into the artist's vision; a means of rendering more tangible to the spectators' imagination the world of gallantry and legend they are invited to contemplate. The attacking Greeks on the right foreground are clad in short blue tunics, gold breastplates and helmets and crimson red cloaks, recalling the artist's representations of Alexander the Great and Byzantine Emperor Constantine Palaiologos (compare Battle of Alexander the Great and Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos at the walls of Constantinople, Bonhams Greek Sales 16/11/2016 and 24/04/2013 respectively). As noted by Y. Tsarouchis, "this outfit known from the folk woodcuts of Erotocritos and the Roman soldiers in 19th c. post-Byzantine icons, is identical to Italian opera costumes, as designed by famed set designers and, long before them, by such greats as Botticelli and Raphael, when they painted military saints or archangels."3 Τhe correlation between archaic Greeks, Alexander and Constantine shows how Theofilos, with his instinctive knowledge and keen sense of historical past, could easily migrate from one era to another, capturing bygone glory and heroism as a form of timeless Hellenism constantly reborn in the present.

    His fascination with the idea of eternal Greece is expressed without having to succumb to historical or topographical accuracy. As perceptively noted by G. Petris when discussing this lot in his book on Theofilos, "the group of hilltop houses on the upper left corner closely resembles a contemporary village. Most likely, this scene is composed of the artist's fragmentary recollection of previous representations."4 There is a distinct sense of home and domesticity in Theofilos's vision of the faraway past.

    Myth and history are filtered through the artist's rich imagination and transformed into the enthusiasm sparked in him by valour and heroic achievement. Gallantry is indicated through the repetition of pictorial and iconographic conventions, an approach to painting rooted in Byzantine and folk tradition and reminiscent of descriptions found in demotic songs. The linear arrangement of the warriors, the symmetry and rhythm of the composition and the impression of an immutable reality, take one even further back to Archaic Greek vase painting where all episodes or figures are generally set side by side in a paratactical presentation like beads on a string. Moreover, the picture's lengthy title, inscribed on the upper and lower framing band, reflects the painter's desire to provide a full description of his subject by leaving nothing obscure. On the contrary, the visual act is clearly expressed, while all phenomena are thrust forward to the narrative surface, where they receive even illumination in a flat, continuous present—an approach to representation that is a fundamental structural principle of the Homeric epics.5

    1 See O. Elytis, The Painter Theofilos [in Greek], Asterias editions, Athens 1973, p. 24.
    2 See A. Lang, Tales of Troy and Greece, Wordsworth editions, Hertfordshire 1995, p. 89.
    3 Y. Tsarouchis, "The Painter Theofilos" preface to Theofilos, Commercial Bank of Greece, Athens 1967, p. 18.
    4 G. Petris, The Painter Theofilos, Exandas editions, Athens 1978, p. 42.
    5 See H. Kambouridis - G. Levounis, Modern Greek Art-The 20th Century, Athens 1999, p. 43.
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