To the frustration of Diderot the humanist, those that paint historical scenes have a mean streak due to Homer.
What a beautiful subject, my friend. It is Ulysses recognizing Achilles in the midst of Lycomedes’ daughters using a ploy which we all know. Imagine a group of young women whose curiosity is pricked by the jewels that the masquerading merchant has spread before them; amongst them you notice one more lithesome than the others, and forgetting the woman’s clothes with which her father Pélée had used to fool the searching Greeks, and listening to nothing but her own courage and her natural ways, seizes a scimitar and pulls its half way from its scabbard and suddenly assumes a martial position. You can see Déidamie look on her with a mixed look of anxiety and surprise. One can see the jaded Ulysses, his head in his hand, looking at her while smiling and saying to himself “Here is the one that I am looking for…” So my friend, you can see I don’t know how many beautiful things are in your head but there is not a single shred of it on Hallé’s canvas…