This painting in the Louvre Museum is a work of Hubert Robert (1733 -1808) done around 1754.
The subject taken from the Greek rhetorician Claudius Aelianius or Aelian (Varia Historia, XII, 7), writing in the second century CE, and shows the Macedonian king having the tomb of Achilles opened in order to pay a homage to the Greek hero of the Trojan War.
Achilles’ relationship with Patroclus is a key aspect of his myth. Its exact nature has been a subject of dispute in both the classical period and modern times. Thus in 5th-century BCE Athens, the relationship was commonly interpreted as pederastic. Nowadays some see it as a love relationship of an egalitarian homosexual couple. It is the same case as the relationship between Alexander the Great and Hephaestion. The relationship between the Macedonian king and his dearest and closest friend and confidant, lasted their whole lives, and was compared, by others as well as themselves, to that of Achilles and Patroclus. Hephaestion and Alexander grew up in a time and place where homosexual affairs were seen as perfectly normal. Roman and later writers, taking the Athenian pattern as their example, have tended to assume either, that their sexual relationship belonged to their adolescence, after which they left it behind, or that one of them was older, the lover (erastes) and the other was the beloved (eromenos). Claudius Aelianus takes the latter view when he uses just such an expression when describing the visit to Troy: “Alexander laid a garland on Achilles’ tomb and Hephaestion on Patroclus’, indicating that he was Alexander’s eromenos, as Patroclus was of Achilles.” No other circumstance shows better the nature and length of their relationship than Alexander’s overwhelming grief at Hephaestion’s death. The many and varied ways, both spontaneous and planned, by which Alexander poured out his grief are overwhelming. In the context of the nature of their relationship however, one stands out as remarkable. Lucius Flavius Arrianus “Xenophon” (Arrian of Nicomedia, ca. 86 – 160), in his work Ἀλεξάνδρου ἀνάβασις says that Alexander “… flung himself on the body of his friend and lay there nearly all day long in tears, and refused to be parted from him until he was dragged away by force by his Companions.
This painting by Robert (known as Robert des Ruines) is close to Panini, who was his teacher during his long stay of 11 years in Rome, and it is considered to be one of the first productions of the French artist in that city. In the painting by the French vedutista, an architectural fantasy, we see a pyramid similar to that of Caius Cestius in Rome, the ruins of a temple with Ionic columns inspired by the temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum and a round temple, after the Roman temple of Vesta, or the temple of the Sybile in Tivoli. The statue standing at the left-hand side of the canvas is the so-called Antinous of the Belvedere, or Antinous Admirandus, the famous statue in the Pio-Clementino Museum of the Vatican. This statue, correctly identified as a Hermes in the 19th century, was long taken to be a depiction of the beautiful Bythinian lover of Emperor Hadrian, one of the great “eromenos-erastes” relationship of the antiquity.
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