Priam & Achilles
(British, Born 1932)
Height: 24 1/2 inches (62 cm)
Trained at St Martin’s School of Art, Stanford’s passion for stone carving brought him into contact with the work and philosophy of Eric Gill (1882–1940). While at University between 1957 and 1960, Stanford worked as an assistant to the painter and sculptor Eric Kennington (1888–1960). Kennington, the Official War artist 1940–1945, is best known for his monumental commissions including the War Memorial to the 24th Division in Battersea Park (1924). During Stanford’s time with Kennington he worked on the monumental portland stone relief, the “Engineering Panel” on the wall of the James Watt engineering building of Glasgow University, launching Stanford’s career.
Music and literature are strongly reflected in Stanford’s work, whose narrative lyrical sculptures are often drawn from the classics – Homer, Ovid and Tennyson in particular.
In Homer’s epic poem The Iliad, Priam was the King of Troy during the Trojan War, and the father of the hero Hector; Achilles was Hector’s counterpart and the greatest of the Greek warriors. Stanford’s sculpture represents the emotional scene between Priam & Achilles, as the old King enters the Greek stronghold to plead for the body of his son Hector, who has been slain by Achilles after a decade of warring. Achilles, afflicted with compassion, allows the body to be released to Priam, and grants a twelve-day truce to the fighting for the funeral. This chapter marks the conclusion of the Iliad, and is seen as a moment symbolic of bravery, magnanimity and humanity before the fall of Troy.
The sculpture is a lateral fusion of the two men—Priam & Achilles—entitled on either side of the base. The front of the base depicts the Greeks’ encampment, and the rear features a motif of the “petasos”, or winged-cap, that is worn by Hermes—the Olympian God who leads Priam unscathed on his quest to Achilles.