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This neoclassical print depicts a dramatic moment in which the youth Achilles is being instructed in archery by the Centaur Chiron. Unlike most other Centaurs of Greek legend, who were generally portrayed as unreliable drunken brutes, Chiron was both civilized and wise, and was credited with training several famous disciples. He was known for his expertise in the art of healing and for playing the lyre (which is referred to in this print by the lyre resting on the ground in the lower left corner). The constellation Centaur (Centaurus) was named in his honor. Achilles, of course, became a legendary warrior.
The training of Achilles by Chiron was referred to various times by Euripides, including this exchange from Iphigenia in Aulis:
"Clytaemnestra: Did Thetis or his father train Achilles?
Agamemnon: Chiron brought him up, to prevent his learning the ways of the wicked.
Clytaemnestra: Ah! wise the teacher, still wiser the one who gave his son."
According to an inscription under the title, the print was based on the painting by J.B. Regnault, "Membre de l'Institute National des Science & Arts." Regnault was a prominent French painter who won the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1776. He spent the next four years at the Académie de France in the company of leading neoclassicist painters Jacques-Louis David and Jean-François-Pierre Peyron. Regnault, too, eventually adopted a neoclassicist style, and until 1787 he signed his pictures Renaud de Rome (Fox of Rome), to disassociate himself from the mannered aspects of French painting before the time of David.
"Regnault, Jean-Baptiste." The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. Online at Artnet.com:http://www.artnet.com/library/07/0711/T071165.asp