Venus as Travel Guide (Virgil, Aeneid Book i)
Aeneas’s mother is goddess of love, so he has a head start: Venus hears Jupiter prophesy the rise of Rome, so she guides her boy to Carthage where Queen Dido welcomes him in the temple. At dinner, he begins to tell his story. Botticelli, Boucher, Cézanne, Claude, Corot, Correggio, Ingres, Angelica Kauffmann, Reni, Rubens, Tiepolo, Titian, Turner and Zucchi flock to their easels to do it all in colour.
The Trojan Horse, and What Happened Next (ii)
Aeneas transports Dido and us back to the fateful sequence of events when a Greek agent’s deceit and the priest Laocoon’s strangulation by sea serpents finally convince the Trojans to take the horse inside the city of Troy and so unleash their own destruction. The Carracci, El Greco, Fragonard, Guérin, the Mykonos Vase, Raphael, Rosa, Schopin and Tiepolo tell it how it was.
Out of the Burning Fiery Furnace of the City of his Birth (ii)
Cassandra is dragged away, the palace besieged, the Greeks are rampant, King Priam dies, and Venus prevents Aeneas from avenging Troy through killing Helen. Aeneas now knows that the time has come to flee: he carries his old father, leading his wife Creusa and son, Ascanius. But Creusa is lost. Barocci, Batoni, Bernini, Blondel, Claude, Genga, Nanteuil, Vouet and West picture it all.
The Escape: A Tale of Accidents, Monsters, Landfalls (iii; iv)
Aeneas builds a fleet. They sail to Delos, Crete, the Strophades, Italy and Sicily, and so to Carthage. Dido falls in love with Aeneas, and the gods debate their destiny. The two go hunting and shelter from a storm in a cave whose atmosphere suggests love’s consummation. A. Carracci, Claude, Guignet, Janssens, Thomas Jones, Miel, Morrison, Tiepolo, Tischbein and Turner are visionary here.
The Work-life Balance Tips towards Destiny and Departure (iv)
The menace of Rumour is abroad. Jupiter sends Mercury to tell Aeneas his duty is to leave Carthage for Italy. Aeneas braces himself to break the news to Dido, whose nightmares now resolve her to die. Mercury visits Aeneas in a dream: he must go now to save his life and those of his companions. Claude is at the scene, as are Dossi, Giacquinto, Manetti, Reni, Tiepolo and Turner.
As the Fleet Sails, so Dido’s Pyre is set alight (iv; v)
Dido immolates herself. At sea, Aeneas and his crew look back, see the fire, but do not realize why it is burning. A storm drives them to Sicily, where they visit the tomb of Aeneas’s father Anchises and stage memorial games: sea-racing, athletics, boxing, archery, horsemanship. Trojan women fire the ships. Bourdon, Cayot, Coypel, Fuseli, Guercino, Reynolds, Robson, Rubens, Sacchi, Tiepolo.
Aeneas and the Sibyl: Destination Underworld (v; vi)
Aeneas’s beloved helmsman Palinurus is drowned by the god Sleep. They land at Cumae, Aeneas consults the Sibyl, is guided to the golden bough, finds the door to the Underworld, crosses the River Styx, and meets Palinurus’s ghost and the three-headed dog Cerberus. Burne-jones, Crespi, Domenichino, Guercino, Hollar, Houbraken, Michelangelo, Rubens, Testa, Turner, van Swanenburg, Edder.
Even More Momentous Ghosts Now Cross his Path (vi)
In Limbo, Aeneas sees and speaks to Dido. She walks away wordlessly. He meets his comrade-in-arms Deiphobus; is shown the terrors of Tartarus but cannot enter; comes to idyllic Elysium, where his father Anchises prophesies Rome’s future. Then, out through the gate, he returns to the world. Jan Breughel the Elder and Younger, Croce, Dantan, Manfredi and The Master of the Aeneid.
The Landing in Italy, a Latin War, and a Shield from Vulcan (vii, viii, ix)
They pass Circe’s island, reach the Tiber’s mouth, and send an embassy to King Latinus, who offers Aeneas his daughter Lavinia in marriage. Juno and the Fury Allecto goad the Latins, led by Turnus, to war with the Trojans. Aeneas is divinely inspired to seek allies. The Trojan camp is invaded. Bourgeois, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Claude, de Lairesse, del Po, Desprez, Regnault, Serrur, Solimena.
Aeneas Breaks a Siege and Faces Single Combat (x, xi, xii; the Aeneid’s legacy)
On the battlefield, Evander’s son Pallas is lost to Turnus’s spear. Aeneas kills several Latin chiefs. A truce allows the dead to be buried. Then, in renewed fighting, the Latins lose ground. Aeneas and Turnus meet face to face. Aeneas triumphs. The Aeneid is complete. But what is its legacy to poetry and art? Bazin, Cugnot, Dimier, Falguiere, Giordano, Perrin, and surprise ‘guests’.