Created using a mixture of bold swathes of richly-hued pigment and thin strokes of fluid ink, Le grand cheval de Troie is a testament to the enduring appeal of classical antiquity within Salvador Dalí’s creative imagination. Delving into a familiar subject from Greek mythology and legend, the infamous sacking of Troy, the composition focuses on the moment in which the supposed gift of a wooden horse is revealed to be a hollow, faux-sculpture that the Greek forces have hidden within in order to surprise their opponents and breach the battlements. While the composition is dominated by a monumental horse that towers over the scene, its form captured in a rich green hue reminiscent of oxidised bronze, it is the figure of Athena who catches the eye, bathed in the soft golden light of the sun as she hovers above the action.
Dalí had been increasingly drawn to classical mythology in the years immediately following the end of the Second World War, and he sought to interpret recent events in the context of ancient history and myth. In a list of ‘Tastes and Prophecies for the Next Ten Years’, which the artist published in his Dalí News on 25 November 1947, he predicted: ‘After the First World War, it was the Romantics. After the Second World War, it shall be the Classicists’ (quoted in R. Descharnes, Dalí, Lausanne, 1984, p. 292). Using a combination of oil, gouache, watercolour, pen and ink to delineate the scene, Dalí combines delicate fine lines with clouds of glowing colour and spontaneous splashes of ink, heightening the fantastical and magical effect of the imagery that floods the sheet.