This painting was Lefebvre’s winning entry to the Prix de Rome in 1861. It shows the death of Priam, as described by Virgil in the Aeneid:
Then Pyrrhus thus: “Go thou from me to fate,
And to my father my foul deeds relate.
Now die!” With that he dragg’d the trembling sire,
Slidd’ring thro’ clotter’d blood and holy mire,
(The mingled paste his murder’d son had made,)
Haul’d from beneath the violated shade,
And on the sacred pile the royal victim laid.
His right hand held his bloody falchion bare,
His left he twisted in his hoary hair;
Then, with a speeding thrust, his heart he found:
The lukewarm blood came rushing thro’ the wound,
And sanguine streams distain’d the sacred ground.
Thus Priam fell, and shar’d one common fate
With Troy in ashes, and his ruin’d state:
He, who the scepter of all Asia sway’d,
Whom monarchs like domestic slaves obey’d.
On the bleak shore now lies th’ abandon’d king,
A headless carcass, and a nameless thing.