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Paintings › View › Penelope and the Suitors 1912   
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  bullet  1912 . Oil on canvas
  bullet  Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums - Aberdeen, Scotland
Actual Size (W x H): 188cm x 130cm [ 74.07" x 51.22" ]
John William Waterhouse: Penelope and the Suitors - 1912 John William Waterhouse: Penelope and the Suitors - 1912

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Penelope was the daughter of Icarius and a first cousin of Helen of Troy. She was the wife of Odysseus and was famous for her cleverness and for her faithfulness to her husband.

When Odysseus failed to return from the Trojan War (he was delayed for ten years on his way home), Penelope was beset by suitors who wanted her to remarry. In order to delay them, she insisted that she could not remarry until she had finished weaving a shroud for Odysseus' father, Laertes. She worked each day at her loom, and then unravelled the cloth each night. After three years of successful delay, one of her servants revealed her deception, and the impatient suitors angrily demanded that she choose one of them for her husband immediately. At the prompting of Athene, Penelope said that she would marry the man who could string Odysseus' bow and shoot an arrow through twelve axes. By this time, Odysseus himself had secretly returned, disguised as a beggar; he passed the test of the bow, and then proceeded to slaughter the suitors who had tormented his wife. pantheon.org

In his later work J.W. Waterhouse wholly embraced the poetic imagination of the Pre-Raphaelites. To this he brought a broad handling and loose brushwork which has been credited to the influence of French painters such as Bastien-Lepage. Penelope's legendary marital fidelity was recorded in Homer's epic poem, 'The Odyssey'. For many years, her husband Odysseus had been absent at the siege of Troy. Pressed to make a second marriage, she stalls for time, telling the crowds of suitors that they must wait until she has finished weaving a shroud for her father-in-law. During the day she works at her weaving and at night, still convinced that Odysseus will return, she undoes all her day's work. Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum

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