GAUFFIER, Louis
(b. 1762, Poitiers, d. 1801, Livorno)

Ulysses Recognises Achilles amongst the Daughters of Lycomedes

1791
Oil on canvas, 81 x 115 cm
Private collection

The subject is taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Knowing her son was destined to die if he went to fight in the Trojan war, Thethis, a sea nymph, disguised Achilles as a woman and entrusted him to King Lycomedes, in whose palace on the isle of Scyros he lived among the king's daughters. Odysseus and other Greek chieftains were sent to fetch Achilles. They cunningly laid a heap of gifts before the girls - jewellery, clothes and other finery, but among them a sword, spear and shield. When a trumpet was sounded, Achilles instinctively snatched up the weapons and thus betrayed his identity.

Doric columns and a peristyle create perspective in Gauffrier's painting and dramatically emphasise the contrast of light and shade in the picture.