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The Education of Achilles

c. 1776
Giovanni Battista Cipriani (Italian (active Florence and England), 1727–1785)

The Trojan War hero Achilles appears in Giovanni Battista Cipriani’s painting as a youth training with the wise centaur Chiron, who guides his spear. Chiron was famed for his knowledge of medicine and music, and for training other great heroes, such as Hercules. Cipriani modeled these muscular figures after ancient sculptures and frescoes, particularly those that had been recently excavated at Herculaneum (now in Campania, Italy). Ancient depictions of Chiron and Achilles often carried an erotic charge, alluding to themes of same-sex sexual initiation, and Cipriani’s paintings might likewise be read as reflecting the intense homosocial (and sometimes homosexual) bonds among England’s male elite.

This painting is one of a series of four painted for an anteroom of Lansdowne House, a luxurious residence in central London designed by the Neoclassical architect Robert Adam. The drawing room from the house is also in the museum’s collection (see 1931-104-1).

Object Details

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