By Petar Meseldzija

On the road to Troy,
Helen receives a vision – 50X70 cm, oil on MDF board.

A few years ago, a
private collector from Belgium commissioned me to do two paintings. First painting
was to depict Guinevere, King Arthur’s 
beautiful but unfaithful wife; the subject of the second painting was Helen
of Troy. The first commission was finished three years ago, the second one a
few months ago. 

It would be very cool,
even romantic, to say that the reason for this delay was my internal struggle
with the painting, because I was not able to find the right model for Helen, for
no woman I knew was beautiful enough to ignite the fire of inspiration and help
me achieve the unachievable: to depict one of the greatest beauties of all
times, a beauty so glorious, a beauty so divine, and so lethal at the same
time, that initiated one of the most famous wars in history, the Trojan War. A war
in which the greatest heroes fought and died, including the greatest of them all,
mighty Achilles. A war that raged for 10 long years, eventually bringing the devastation
to the city of Troy and its inhabitants; 
A war that gave birth to the famous Trojan Horse; A war that eventually produced
 wondrous wanderings of Odysseus, and
inspired a blind ancient Greek poet, Homer, 
to create two of the greatest and most important epic poems of Western
literature, The Iliad and The Odyssey.

Unfortunately, the real
reason for the delay in finishing the second painting was much more trivial;
because of my extremely busy schedule, combined with some health issues, I
could not find time and peace of mind to focus on this commission.  

However, once I did
manage to give my full attention to the painting, things got a little tricky.
The main question was – what should I depict, and how? There were so many
possibilities, and so many different ways to do it. At the end, of all the interesting,
dynamic and juicy moments from the story of Helen of Troy, I chose to depict a   nonexistent 
moment, so to speak. Recognizing this as a conceptual weakness of the
piece, I tried to neutralize it by giving the painting the title “On the road to Troy, Helen receives a

By choosing to depict
this uneventful moment, I sacrificed many potentially attractive scenes for the
sake of something more elementary. I tried to bring the composition down to the
story’s very essence: the irresistible attraction between a man and a woman, that
eventually produces a fatal ending.  This
is a timeless theme, and while the outer elements change through time, the essential
components stay the same – forbidden love and irresistible passion, betrayal
and subsequent devastation.

As you can see, I
used only three elements to point out the essence of my interpretation: a
feminine element, a masculine element, and a vision. Although definitely not
the most beautiful of women, my Helen is dressed in a simple but richly draped
clothes. She is bathing in light.


The masculine element
is reduced to the archetypal symbol of masculinity – a strong, muscular body, a
spear, and a shield; and it is placed in the shadow. There is no glittering armor,
or richly decorated clothes that would suggest this person is Paris, the prince
of Troy.

And the third element
of this composition is a vision of a broken ancient Greek helmet, with a serpent
coming out of it, and biting its own tale. In the image of a serpent biting its
own tail, or so-called the Ouroboros, lies the thought of devouring oneself and
turning oneself into a circulatory process. Ouroboros is a symbol for the
integration and assimilation of the opposites…it represents infinity or
wholeness. Ouroboros slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilizes
himself and gives birth to himself. (C.G. Jung)


I mostly don’t like
to explain my paintings verbally, for I think if the painting is good, it  will speak to the spectator in its own
language. But sometimes an indication of the general context is necessary, and
in this particular case I thought a few hints were needed in order to help the
understanding of the piece, and to enhance the experience.  My intention was not so much to present a pictorial
story that one needs to read as a book – although I understand that this might
be the first impression – but more to show a few symbols, and through bringing them
into a certain relationship with each other, I hoped to stimulate certain
questions to come to the surface.

Questions like:  does Love knows about the morality, or is Love
a phenomenon that transcends all the concepts known to men, and therefore should
stand above all judgment; what is the actual relationship between the sexual
attraction and Love, between the personal benefits and Love; is there something
like unconditional Love; can Love sometimes be considered a sin, or is it
always a virtue; having in mind the terrible consequences of their afire, were Helen
and Paris guilty of selfishness and egoism; or were they just the little
figurines  in the game of chess played by
Gods; or do their actions have the power to influence Gods; in other words, do
Gods need man, as much as man need Gods…?

In spite of my wishful
thinking, I don’t believe that my modest pictorial contribution to this
everlasting dilemma has the ability to bring forth some of these fundamental
questions, let alone to give an answer. However, it is true that these thoughts
have played an important role, inevitably influencing the composition and the creation
of this painting.