The Judgement of Paris

Written by Ross King
Review by Sara Wilson

Nineteenth-century France produced two very different artists, and to each the judgement of Paris meant the difference between triumph and failure. Ernest Meissonier was hugely successful and celebrated, whilst the younger Édouard Manet was struggling to sell his often disparaged efforts. Yet Meissonier once wrote, “Time gives every human being his value. The real worth of man cannot be gauged until he is dead.” They were to prove prophetic words because, more than 100 years since their deaths, it is Manet who is world-renowned whilst Meissonier languishes in museum storerooms.

Individually their stories are interesting enough, compared and contrasted their careers take on new meaning and that is the brilliance of The Judgement of Paris. Through the lives of these two very different painters Ross King can reflect on and examine the times in which they lived. Fascinating for anyone wanting to know more about mid-19th century Parisian life in general and the artistic movement in particular.