Peter Paul Rubens picks up the golden apple with his depiction of The Judgement of Paris based on the version of events by Roman poet Lucian. Feeling snubbed by not receiving an invitation to an important wedding feast, Eris throws a golden apple inscribed ‘To the Fairest’ among the attendant goddesses. Minerva, Juno and Venus all claim the apple so Jupiter tasks Paris to choose between them.
Rubens sets this beauty contest in a rural, idyllic landscape and chooses to depict the moment when Paris appears to be offering the apple to a somewhat bashful looking Venus. The goddesses are all captured in various states of persuasive undress. Additionally they offered bribes to secure the apple – with Juno offering wealth and power, Minerva – wisdom and strength and Venus promising Paris the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen, who was married to King Menelaus of Sparta – a gift which proved irresistible. The consequences of this action are foretold in the sky where Alecto (one of the three Furies) is seen blowing up into a jealous rage.
Rubens also shows his skill at capturing different textures in paint. As well as the golden glow of the apple and the fading light of the sun, he contrasts textures of silk, velvet, reflective glass (Minerva’s mirror with the foreboding reflection of Medusa’s head) but also the sheen of hair and skin.