PITTONI, Giambattista
(b. 1687, Venezia, d. 1767, Venezia)

The Sacrifice of Polyxena

Oil on canvas, 129 x 94 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Polyxena was a daughter of Priam, king of Troy. The Greek hero Achilles, though on the opposite side in the Trojan war, fell in love with her at first sight. According to one tradition Polyxena brought about his death by a plot. After the sack of Troy by the Greeks the ghost of Achilles appeared to the other Greek chieftains and demanded that Polyxena be sacrificed on his tomb. This was carried out. Polyxena is beside the tomb, the executioner is Neoptolemus the son of Achilles. Agamemnon, the Greek leader who dissented from the sacrifice, is seen pleading in vain.