John Flaxman: Iliad

John Flaxman’s Drawings of The Iliad

John Flaxman (1755-1826) was sculptor, painter, illustrator and draughtsman who’s work was very influential although sometimes descriped as too simplistic and even naive.

Let’s skim few short facts about him:

– his father (who’s named was John too) was successful moulder and there was plenty of chances to learn the tricks of the trade in his workshop since earliest age,

– younger John started to work at potter Josiah Wedgwood where he designed reliefs, many of them with motifs from classic literature,

– Flaxman spent almost seven years in Italy working on several projects and studying medieval and Renaissance art, archeological excavations being great inspiration to him,

– one of his most important works are illustrations for Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s Iliad which can be viewed right here:

minerva and achiles

Minerva repressing the fury of Achilles

jupiter to agamemnon

Jupiter sending the evil dream to Agamemnon

venus helen paris

Venus presenting Helen to Paris

gods of olympus

The council of the gods

otus ephialtes and mars

Otus and Ephialtes holding Mars captive

hector and andromache

The meeting of Hector and Andromache

hector and ajax fighting

Hector and Ajax separated by heralds

Juno's car

The hours taking the horses from Juno’s car

embassy to achilles

The embassy to Achilles

diomed and ulysses

Diomed and Ulysses returning with the spoils of Rhesus

descend of discord

The descend of Discord

polydamas and hector

Polydamas advising Hector to retire from the trench

This is the spot where the first of two books of The Iliad ends. You certainly recognized many of famous names but probably noticed the names of the gods are Roman, not Greek.

To help you with ‘translation, I made a short list of:

Roman names of Greek gods (Roman / Greek)

Juno / Hera

Jupiter / Zeus

Mars / Ares

Mercury / Hermes

Minerva / Athena

Neptune / Poseidon

Venus / Aphrodite

Vulcan / Hephaestus

This should be enough to switch to the second book (still John Flaxman under heavy influence of roman classics):


Neptune rising from the sea

Sleep and Jupiter

Sleep escaping from the wrath of Jupiter

Ajax defending the ships

Ajax defending the Greek ships against Trojans

Sleep and Death and Sarpedon

Sleep and Death conveying the body of Sarpedon to Lycia

Fight over Patroclus body

The fight for the body of Patroclus

thetis eurynome vulcan

Thetis and Eurynome receiving the infant Vulcan

achilles and patrocles

Achilles mourning Patrocles

greek gods in action

Gods descending to battle

Achilles contending

Achilles contending with the rivers

Andromache faints

Andromache fainting on the wall

funeral of patroclus

The funeral pile of Patroclus

funeral of hector

The funeral of Hector

End here the Iliad ends. This epic actually happens in about 45 days, but we got all the information about Trojan war which lasted about ten years. Homer told why it started, how they tried to solve it when both sides were already fed up with it and how ended. He told us even about some of the events after the Trojan war… And of course there is still unofficial sequel called The Odyssey.

Let me finish with John Flaxman’s thoughts on this work. He admitted these drawings were not meant to be published. They were just drafts which never developed to initially planned product. Well, it so happened they are famous now, they gave him reputation of important Neoclassicist and the rest is history.

Ancient history.

3 thoughts on “John Flaxman: Iliad

  1. Pingback: Lays of Ancient Rome by Lord Macaulay with illustrations by Paul Hardy | Top Illustrations by Top Artists

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