LAIRESSE, Gérard de
(b. 1641, Liège, d. 1711, The Hague)
Achilles Discovered among the Daughters of Lycomedesc. 1685
Oil on canvas, 138 x 190 cm
Mauritshuis, The Hague
This subject is rare in seventeenth-century Northern Netherlandish art. However, it became extremely popular in Flanders after Rubens' version appeared in c. 1616. There are three known versions of the theme by Lairesse: in the Mauritshuis, The Hague, in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, and in the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig.
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.
Lairesse, like all other artists who rendered the subject, chose the scene Achilles examining the weapons.