(b. 1711, Paris, d. 1781, Paris)

The Race between Hippomenes and Atalanta

Oil on canvas, 321 x 712 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Hallé was a French history painter working in Paris. He was one of the painters from whom a cycle on the life of Saint Louis, destined for the chapel of the École Militaire, was commissioned in 1772.

In the Boeotian version of the legend, followed by Ovid (Met. 10:560-707), Atalanta was an athletic huntress. Her way with her suitors was to challenge them to a race in which the loser was punished with death. She remained unbeaten and a virgin until Hippomenes (elsewhere named Melanion) took her on. As they ran he dropped three golden apples, given to him by Venus, and since Atalanta could not resist stopping to pick them up she lost the race. They later made love in a temple of Cybele, which offended the goddess so much that she turned them both into lions. In the picture Atalanta is shown in the act of stooping to pick up an apple as Hippomenes overtakes her.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 12 minutes):
George Frideric Handel: Atalanta, Act 3 (excerpts)