Abduction of Helen - Guido Reni

Abduction of Helen - Guido Reni (Illustration) Legends and Legendary People Social Studies Ancient Places and/or Civilizations Visual Arts Fiction

Guido Reni created this painting—The Abduction of Helen—in 1631. There is more to this painting than meets the eye of today’s beholders. 

In the 17th century, much of Europe was in turmoil.  The “Thirty Years War”—a tremendously destructive conflict with catastrophic consequences for so many people—was still impacting France, Spain and the Papacy (in Rome).

Key to the 30 Years War graph:

Dark Red:   Directly against Emperor
Light Red:  Indirectly against Emperor
Black:         Directly for Emperor
Gray:          Indirectly for Emperor  

When The Abduction of Helen was commissioned, Urban VIII was the Pope.  Like so many other Popes, he was powerful. 

Diplomatic negotiations were underway, at the time, between the Papacy (headed by Urban VIII) and the Spanish monarchy. The ongoing tensions between the Catholic Church and the countries at war, in Europe, may have impacted the creation of this work of art.  

In 1997, Anthony Colantuono wrote a book about the painting (and its background) entitled Guido Reni's Abduction of Helen:  The Politics and Rhetoric of Painting in Seventeenth-Century Europe.  He argues that Urban VIII tried to influence the artist to make his painting more of a political metaphor (about the Thirty Years War) than a work of art (interpreting the famous abduction of Helen which led to the Trojan War).

Is this painting just a beautiful work of art—or—was it a warning to Spain?  Could it be both?

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5197stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jul 17, 2014

Updated Last Revision: Nov 04, 2016

Media Credits

Image of painting online, courtesy the Web Gallery of Art.


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"Abduction of Helen - Guido Reni" AwesomeStories.com. Jul 17, 2014. Jun 05, 2020.
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