The TROJAN HELENS, project Zeuxis, 1999-2006.

This project uses multiple superimposition of images from free pornographic sites on the Internet.

Ink-jet print,  75,5x55,5 cm, edition 1/1. Diasec, various sizes, edition 1/1.

Zeuxis - a Greek artist who was born in Heraklea and lived in Athens in the early IV century B.C.  Since not one of his works has come down to us, his reputation is based solely on classical literature.  Zeuxis exerted a huge influence on ancient Greek and Roman art, and copies of some of his works, for example, The Centaur’s Family were preserved for centuries. 

In his Natural History of 77 A. D. the Roman historian Pliny the Elder states that Zeuxis began painting in the fourth year of the 95th Olympiad (397 B. C.).  Being a pupil of Apollodoros, Zeuxis adopted his inventions of perspective and chiaroscuro and further developed them.  His technique of chiaroscuro is characterized by a great depth, with details freely sketched.  According to the Greek writer Lucian Zeuxis' color effects were regarded as the most important achievement of that era.  A distinguishing feature of Zeuxis' art was his ability to make a subtle characterization of divinity – a personification of the elements – for example Pan, Boreas and Mars.

“In creating ideal types, he endeavored to find the appropriate features in his surroundings and fuse them into an integral being.  When the citizens of Crotona commissioned him to paint Helen, Zeuxis took the essence of five of the most beautiful maidens in the town and combined in his picture the perfection which each of them embodied.”

(P. P. Gnedich. History of Art from Ancient Times. St. Petersburg.  1885.)


Book II chapter 1


I. Some men of Crotona, when they were rich in all kinds of resources, and when they were considered among the most prosperous people in Italy, were desirous to enrich the temple of Juno, which they regarded with the most religious veneration, with splendid pictures. Therefore they hired Zeuxis of Heraclea at a vast price, who was at that time considered to be far superior to all other painters, and employed him in that business. He painted many other pictures, of which some portion, on account of the great respect in which the temple is held, has remained to within our recollection; and in order that one of his mute representations might contain the preeminent beauty of the female form, he said that he wished to paint a likeness of Helen. And the men of Crotona, who had frequently heard that he exceeded all other men in painting women, were very glad to hear this; for they thought that if he took the greatest pains in that class of work in which he had the greatest skill, he would leave them a most noble work in that temple.

II. Nor were they deceived in that expectation: for Zeuxis immediately asked of them what beautiful virgins they had; and they immediately led him into the palaestra, and there showed him numbers of boys of the highest birth and of the greatest beauty. For indeed, there was a time when the people of Crotona were far superior to all other cities in the strength and beauty of their persons; and they brought home the most honorable victories from the gymnastic contests, with the greatest credit. While, therefore, he was admiring the figures of the boys and their personal perfection very greatly; "The sisters," say they, "of these boys are virgins in our city, so that how great their beauty is you may infer from these boys." "Give me, then," said he, "I beg you, the most beautiful of these virgins, while I paint the picture which I promised you, so that the reality may be transferred from the breathing model to the mute likeness."

III. Then the citizens of Crotona, in accordance with a public vote, collected the virgins into one place, and gave the painter the opportunity of selecting whom he chose. But he selected five, whose names many poets have handed down to tradition, because they had been approved by the judgment of the man who was bound to have the most accurate judgment respecting beauty. For he did not think that he could find all the component parts of perfect beauty in one person, because nature has made nothing of any class absolutely perfect in every part. Therefore, as if nature would not have enough to give to everybody if it had given everything to one, it balances one advantage bestowed upon a person by another disadvantage.