Helen of Troy, Weeping as the Greek Ships Land, a colored-pencil drawing

Helen of Troy, Weeping as the Greek Ships Land

(below, highlighted detail of figures of Helen and Paris)

Helen of Troy, Weeping as the Greek Ships Land, a colored-pencil drawing, Helen highlighted detail

Helen of Troy, Weeping as the Greek Ships Land, a colored-pencil drawing, Paris highlighted detail


Female and male figures

Colored pencils on Canson white 50-pound, acid-free paper

January 2006

Dimensions: paper 10-7/8 inches (27.6 cm) high by about 13-7/8 inches (35.3 cm) wide; image about 8-1/8 inches (about 20.5 cm) high by about 11-15/16 inches (about 30.2 cm) wide

Helen, originally a princess of ancient Sparta, here weeps as the Greek ships land on the beaches of Troy, beginning the long, horrible Trojan War. Helen was the original trophy wife. She was, after all, a daughter of Zeus (the supreme deity in Greek mythology) and Queen Leda of Sparta, to whom Zeus took quite a liking while she was bathing, famously approaching her disguised as a swan. And Helen was considered to be the most beautiful young woman in the world. But, not long after marrying the much-older Menelaus, she was kidnapped by or ran away with the young Trojan prince Paris, whom the gods considered the most handsome man in the world. The Greeks were determined to bring Helen back -- and sack the wealthy city-state of Troy while they were at it -- and sent a huge fleet to beseige Troy. So, Helen has been known ever since as the face that launched a thousand ships.

Helen is remembered for her physical beauty. But, oddly enough, no one really knows quite what she looked like. She is based on real Mycenaenan queens who ruled about 1300 BC, but there are no portraits from that time. Which makes Helen an artist's dream, quite literally, because we can make her look any way we please, without having to worry about an actual likeness.

(For the lovely face and figure of Helen in this drawing, I am very grateful to my friend Oksana, a gorgeous photographic model in London, whose photo I adapted with her very kind and gracious permission. You can visit her website at or send her an email at

If you'd like to learn more about Helen, here are some excellent books about her, including Helen of Troy: The Story Behind the Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Bettany Hughes, which was turned into an excellent PBS television-documentary series. And there have been some good films, too, including one starring Brad Pitt (as Achilles) and Orlando Bloom (as Paris).

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