helen

Most literate folks know how the story of Helen began. As I’m not overly fond of lightheaded aristocrats who ruin the welfare and lives of whole nations for their egoistic passion, I knew from the beginning that I would skip the whole Paris-affair. Much less is known of the aftermath of these events. No, they did not escape through a tunnel, to start a new breed of trojans. Eventually Paris gets what he deserves and is killed by Philocetes, whereas Helen marries his brother Deiphobus. However, as the end draws near, Helen betrays her new husband and leaves him at the mercy of Menelaus. Of course, all the trojans are killed, and if it wasn’t for her unearthly beauty, the same fate would have befallen on Helen. However, the victorious king is unable to kill her and the two return to Sparta.
The picture depicts one of the pivot points in that story, the betrayal of Deiphobus. It was described in Virgil’s Aeneid, where Aeneas meets the mutilated prince in the Underworld.
Deiphobus: “Care-worn and sunk in slumber, I was then inside our ill-starred bridal chamber, sleep weighing upon me as I lay – sweet and deep, very image of death’s peace. Meanwhile, this peerless wife takes every weapon from the house – even from under my head she had withdrawn my trusty sword; into the house she calls Menelaus and flings wide the door, hoping, I doubt not, that her lover would find this a great boon, and so the fame of old misdeeds might be blotted out.”
This was basically the premise of the photo shoot, which took place in March 2014. Then I started to sketch out the setting that I would be building. And that’s where things got complicated. I wanted to make the setting of Troy as believeable as possible, but at the same time retaining artistic liberty to keep the scene attractive and fitting for the legend.
The actual historic setting would not have been too picturesque. That became clear quite as soon as I started reading and gathering reference pictures. As the study process progressed, I probably scrapped about 4-5 concepts and started from scratch.
Though commonly Troy is pictured as something similar to ancient Greece, the truth was much more elaborate. Actually even Greece at that time looked different from our current popular depictions.
Most scolars agree, that the Homeric Troy was situated in Hisarlik, Turkey, where an ancient city was unearthed in the 19th century. It is most commonly marked as Troy VII and dated at 1300-900 BC. There are signs that around 1120 BC and 1020 BC the city was destroyed by fire, giving credibility to the Homeric epic.
That is way before the Greek golden age, as the Acropolis of Athens wasn’t built for yet another 600 years. Very little remains of Troy itself – merely a few brick walls and foundations, so the historic source was of little use.
But what was Troy itself? To which culture did it belong? These were the questions that needed answering. Maybe that would give me some clues. In Iliad, trojans are depicted as very similar to Greeks – they serve the same gods, and speak the same language. Today most scolars agree that that was not the case. They were not Greeks, but neiter were they of a Persian ancestry.
It appears that they were Indo-Europeans, culturally connected to the vast Hittite empire. Troy was essentially a city-state, culturally related to but independent from the Hittite empire. There is speculations that Trojans were an ancient Anatolian tribe who spoke the Luwian language.
But very little actually remains of the once great Hittite empire also and even less is known of it’s architecture and art. But still it’s a tad more than what remains of Troy itself.
So my basic idea was – stone foundations, brick walls and some limestone pillars to spice it up. I didn’t want to go for round pillars, for they would have had too big resemblance to Greek and Minoan architecture (as it was in Petersen’s movie). And most artistic depictions of Troy feature rectangular pillars, as that was the more archaic form.
The palace itself would be with two levels – a royal level with pillars and the living quarters made mostly with mud bricks and wood. Actually, mud bricks are one of the reasons why so little remains of the historic Troy. It was simply washed away. Overall I tried to convey an image of a royal household, but one that was still rather less developed, compared to our modern depictions.
No reliefs have been found in the site at Hisarlik. Nor any such large pillars, for the record. But lion statues were a household of Hittite architecture.
As for the technical part, I will not delve into the specifics of my workflow. It is too specific and unusable for learning. I think I spent a little less than 100 hours on the whole process, including research and study. The scene is rendered in Vue, it has 59 million polygons, compositing and postworks have been made in Photoshop. The original is 8000×4500 px.

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