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The Judgement of Washington

David Low (1891-1963)



Pen and ink with bodycolour and pencil

12 ¼ x 17 ¾ inches

Manchester Guardian, Tuesday 4 January 1955

The Illustrators. the British Art of Illustration 1900-2018, November 2018-January 2019, No 106

Sir David Low’s representation of the role of the United States of America as a global leader in the aftermath of the Second World War is inspired by the Judgement of Paris, the mythological tale and subject of many works of art by the likes of Rubens and Botticelli. According to Greek Mythology, the mortal Paris was asked by Zeus to judge which of the goddesses Hera, Athena or Aphrodite were fairest, with a golden apple from the Garden of Hesperides as the prize. Paris chose Aphrodite when she promised him the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Troy and wife of the Greek King Menelaus, if he chose her. The Greek expedition to retrieve Helen from Paris in Troy is the mythological basis of the Trojan War.

In Low’s cartoon, Paris is represented by the United States Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, pictured wearing a Phrygian cap, a symbol of liberty. The goddesses are represented by Pierre Mendes-France, the Prime Minister of France; Anthony Eden, British Foreign Secretary, and Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor of Germany. In Low’s cartoon there is a fourth ‘goddess’, represented by Francisco Franco, ‘Caudillo’ of Spain. As Secretary of State, Dulles set about forming a large number of alliances with nations around the world as part of a proactive attempt to not merely contain Communism but drive it back, a phenomenon that became known as Dulles’s ‘Pactomania’. Dulles had met with all three of Mendes-France, Eden and Adenauer during the course of 1954, as France, Great Britain and Germany manoeuvred for a close alliance with the United States. In November 1955, Dulles would fly to Madrid to meet with Franco, becoming the first American Secretary of State to visit Spain since the Spanish Civil War.

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