The Shepherd Paris, 1787
Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Desmarais
oil on canvas
177 x 118 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 23535)
Raised by shepherds, Paris, Prince of Troy, holds a golden apple that he will award to the most beautiful goddess. At an earlier stage, Desmarais sketched in the goddess of Discord who, after giving Paris the apple, flies away in the upper left. He later painted over this figure and, with the passage of time, it has become visible again. In the painting as finished, Desmarais chose to focus on Paris himself. He is shown lost in thought, reflecting on his decision that ultimately will set in motion the Trojan War.
This painting is an "envoi de Rome", a task set to the students of the Académie de France in Rome and shown in the Paris Salon. Desmarais’ signature at the bottom left was later deliberately altered: it now reads “Drouais” (referring to Jean-Germain Drouais, 1763-1788, a fellow student at the Académie). Such deceptive changes, which capitalize on another artist’s reputation, are not uncommon.