About this artwork

Achilles refuses the comfort of his Greek comrades as he grieves over the dead body of his devoted attendant and friend, Patroclus, who was killed by the Trojans. The enormous size of Hamilton's painting conveys a sense of his ambition to depict episodes from Homer's 'Iliad' in an overpowering, epic mode. His heroic compositions were designed to convey the dramatic and emotional range of the epic poem, based on Alexander Pope's translation. Hamilton painted six canvases, each commissioned by a different patron. This one, the finest in the series, was made for Sir James Grant between 1760 and 1763, and secured an international audience through Cunego's engravings.

Gavin Hamilton

Gavin Hamilton

Hamilton was born in Lanarkshire and educated at Glasgow University. He travelled to Rome in 1748 to study painting under Agostino Masucci. He returned to London in 1751 but decided to settle permanently in Italy in 1756 and was to remain there for the rest of his life. Hamilton's huge neoclassical paintings, with their subject matter taken from Homer and their style influenced by both Poussin and the Antique, were of fundamental importance to the development of European art. He was also active as an archaeologist and dealer, and was a friend and guide to many visiting artists and patrons.