Iphigenia in Aulis would provide the inspiration for this work, and all of these figures found within The Anger of Achilles are directly from that piece of Greek literature. Jacques Louis David himself had been attempting to recreate the brilliance of Greek art for many years and his career essentially provided a new form of classical art, hence neoclassical. Once you become aware of the story itself, all of the figures here come to life, and are also then easily identifiable. A knowledge of classical literature certainly aids one's knowledge of some of the Jacques Louis David paintings, though isn't necessary for some of the simpler, commissioned portraits. This passage itself captures a tragic moment which proves to be ideal inspiration for the artist's creative and innovative talents.
The tale being played out here is that Achilles has been informed that his daughter, Iphigenia, is to be sacrificed as a gesture to the gods, when previously she had planned to marry. Agamemnon, king of the Greeks, has made this decision in order to achieve acceptance for his fleet to leave for Troy with goddess Diana's blessing. The situation explains Achilles' decision to reach for his sword to protect his offspring - he is located in the bottom left of the scene, whilst she is led away. Her mother stands behind her, looking devastated by the news. In front is the king himself, bearded and robed, looking menacingly at Achilles. The hand gesture suggests an authoritive reaction to Achilles, who then perhaps falls into line. This story itself was re-imagined in the 17th century, which perhaps is how it came to Jacques Louis David's attention.
The Kimbell Art Museum was set up nearly a century ago, which makes it fairly old in comparison with most American art institutions. It was a result of a family collecting art over a long period of time and eventually requiring somewhere appropriate to display it all. They would have a particular interest in pre-20th century art and this is underlined in the highlights of their collection. There are also a number of other antiquities from old civilisations that are not related to art as such, but help to broaden the appeal of this establishment. Lord Grosvenor's Arabian Stallion with a Groom by George Stubbs, Roe Deer at a Stream by Gustave Courbet, Christ Blessing by Giovanni Bellini and The Torment of Saint Anthony by Michelangelo are amongst the highlights of their collection, though there are also a number of pieces from the likes of Monet, Cezanne and Rubens.