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The Death of Hector

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  • Nicholas asked

    How does this art contribute to the major theme from the Iliad such as justice jealousy war and peace and divine and human causation

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Hi Nicholas, I am not sure if I can answer your question. The artist Peter Paul Rubens was familiar with classical mythology and knew the story of the Iliad as it was told in words and undoubtedly he also knew how other great artists had translated it in images. He focused on the part about the hero Achilles and made his own images in a series of 8 very lively and dynamic oil sketches. In every sketch you can find the protagonist, other figures and symbolic elements that are related to the main themes you mention. The sketches were meant as designs for a series of large tapestries. I hope this is helpful. Kind regards, Els

  • Katie asked

    Are there any symbols on the artwork that tell us who teh characters are? Why were these used?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Hi Katie,
    Thank you for your curiosity. It is possible to claim that this painting depicts Hector and Achilles in battle because Rubens drew features within the composition that clearly distinguish the mythological scene taken from the Iliad. Relying on what Homer wrote, we recognize that the two figures in the center are Achilles and Hector because the former is depicted with the shield and spear forged by the god Vulcan and in a position above Hector who is already on the ground wounded in the throat by the hero. Achilles is portrayed blond and bearded while Hector with thick hair and beard, as was the iconographic custom in the 600s. A further level of iconographic recognition of the work is the presence in the scene of gods with their classical attributes. Above the two struggling humans is Athena with the owl whom Homer describes as the protector of the Greeks and of Achilles to whom she in fact turns her head. The two anthropomorphic columns also depict two deities: Hercules on the left with his lion mantle and Mars on the right.
    A small detail that I invite you to notice is the posture of Achilles' leg. Do you also notice that his ankle and heel are particularly exposed? As Homer also narrates, before Hector dies, he predicts to Achilles an imminent death. Just before the war ends, it will be young Paris who kills Achilles, hitting him in the heel with an arrow.
    I hope this information is useful to you and that I answered your question.
    Best Regards,

  • Josh asked

    where was the death of hector painted

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Dear Josh, After his studies and trip to Italy, Rubens settled in Antwerp in 1608, where he was at the head of a large workshop with lots of staff, assistants and students. At the time The Death of Hector was painted, the workshop was in the centre of the city. Now it is a museum called 'Rubenshuis'. Kind regards, Els

  • chris asked

    is this a renaissance painting?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Hello Chris, Yes when you would need to position this painting in a period, it would be 'renaissance'. This means 're-birth' and refers to the renewed interest in classical culture (after a period in which artists only worked in the service of the church and God). It is renaissance because of the subject that is painted (a scene from classical mythology) and because of the virtuosity in the way the painter pictured the human figures. Kind regards, Els

  • Loran asked

    Can you say something about the symbolism that Rubens likes to use? Why did he put angels on the top? Is there a reason for the white horses on the left? In the finished painting there are two roosters fighting on the bottom. And two horns (cornucopia?) with hair coming out of it. Is there a story he wants to tell with those details?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Dear Loran, yes, probably all details that Rubens depicts have a role in the story. This painting is from a series about the Greek mythological figure Achilles, and here Achilles takes part in the Trojan war by killing Hector, the son of the Trojan king Priamus, with the help of the goddess Athens. The small cherubs in the sky accompany her. According to Homer, the Hector's body was pulled around the city walls by horses, so hence the white horse and the chart. The two roosters seem to echo the fight between the two men. According to a more elaborate version of the scene that also depicts an altar for offerings, the two horns are indeed meant as cornucopia. If you are interested to know more, you might be interested to read the catalogue of the 2018/19 Pure Rubens exhibition. I hope this is helpful. Kind regards, Els

  • Garrett asked

    The sword hector is holding seems to be of a far later date in time, is the armor and weapons theyre using historically accurate?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Dear Garrett, thank you for your observation. The curator completely agrees: the sword does not seem very antique. As always, the image is a visualisation of antiquity by the artist. Rubens studied artifacts and sculptures from antiquity closely, but still there was a lot of imagination involved. There might be literature about Rubens' historical accuracy with respect to armor and weapons, but to find it requests quite specialized research. I hope this is helpful. Kind regards, Els

  • Shaun Hogan asked

    Is it goddess Athena overlooking the fight between achilles and hector?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Hi Shaun, yes it is! There are three persons in the middle of this painting and the middle one is Athena (Minerva). She helped Achilles to beat Hector. Best, Xin

  • ella asked

    why did peter paul rubens create this piece

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Dear Ella,
    This particular oil sketch belongs to a series of sketches depicting the life of Achilles. Rubens used these sketches as preliminary studies for a series of valuable tapestries. Namely, it was much easier for him to adjust details in the oil sketches to finalize the design than in the large, costly tapestries.

  • Julia F asked

    Where were the original paintings displayed and what were they used for?

  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen answered

    Dear Julia,
    The painting is a preparatory oil sketch for a tapestry, which would become part of a series of eight tapestries dedicated to the life of Achilles. The tapestries were probably commissioned by Ruben’s father-in-law Daniel Fourment, who was a tapestry merchant in Antwerp. Perhaps Fourment commissioned them for his own collection, but it is also possible that Fourment acted as a sort of go-between for a client who remains unknown. The number and the various dimensions of the eight tapestries may possibly have had something to do with the room for which this series was intended.
    Kind regards,


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More information

Once Achilles had received new weapons from the fire god Vulcan, he threw himself into battle to revenge his best friend Patrocles. Ultimately he fights Hector. With the help of the goddess Minerva, he manages to beat him, as can be seen in this oil sketch by Rubens, the sixth in a series of eight, in which he illustrated the life of Achilles. The statues to the left and right are of Hercules and Mars. Hercules was the first to plunder Troy and Mars was the protector of Troy, but here turns his face from it.

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Collection book

Collection book Order


Title The Death of Hector
Material and technique Oil on panel
Object type
Painting > Painting > Two-dimensional object > Art object
Location This object is in storage
Dimensions Height 44,4 cm
Width 53 cm
Artists Painter: Peter Paul Rubens
Accession number 1760 d (OK)
Credits Gift D.G. van Beuningen, 1933
Department Old Masters
Acquisition date 1933
Creation date in 1630 - 1635
Collector Collector / D.G. van Beuningen
Internal exhibitions Petrus Paulus Rubens in het Museum Boijmans (1933)
Schilderkunst uit de eerste hand, Olieverfschetsen van Tintoretto tot Goya (1983)
The Collection Enriched (2011)
External exhibitions Rubens. Painter of Sketches (2018)
Geographical origin Southern Netherlands > The Netherlands > Western Europe > Europe

All about the artist

Peter Paul Rubens

Siegen 1577 - Antwerpen 1640

The Antwerp painter Peter Paul Rubens was appointed court artist to the Duke of Mantua in Italy at a young age. In 1603 he travelled to Madrid, where he was...

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