This large oil painting, more properly a polyptych than a triptych as it is often called, was begun in 1872 and remained unfinished through to the artist's death in June 1898.
It may be the final triptych itself, a view favoured by former Birmingham's curator Stephen Wildman, or perhaps a large-scale study for an actual three-dimensional, mixed media triptych/polyptych, more favoured by Burne-Jones scholar John Christian.
The central top panel reveals the beginning of the story, with the 'Judgement of Paris', as he stands with the three goddesses, Juno (Hera), Minerva (Athene) and Venus (Aphrodite). An unfinished watercolour of this scene is in the collection of Andrew Lloyd Webber. The other two top panels flanking the Judgement, are: 'The Abduction of Helen' (on the right), showing Helen, Paris with Venus looming over them, and 'Helen Captive Amid the Burning Flames of Troy' (on the left), of which there are two studies extant, one in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, the other in Birmingham's Collection .
The bottom panels are (from left to right):
'Venus Concordia', of which several studies are extant (compositional study, 1871, Whitworth Art Gallery; study for the Three Graces (pastel, c.1880, Carlisle City Art Gallery; pastel and charcoal, c. 1880, Birmingham, as well as an unfinished oil painting (begun 1872, Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery);
'The Feast of Peleus', for which two versions in oil are in public collections (1872-81, Birmingham; begun 1881, V & A);
and 'Venus Discordia', for which a finished drawing (1871, Whitworth Art Gallery) and an unfinished oil (1872-73, National Museum & Gallery of Wales, Cardiff) exist.
The four predella on the bottom, are (from left to right):
the 'Wheel of Fortune', for which several versions exist (oil, 1875-83, Musee d'Orsay, Paris; oil, 1885, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; gouache in blue grisaille, 1870, Carlisle City Art Gallery; watercolour, 1872-74, London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham Public Libraries) as well as numerous sketches and studies;
'Fame Overthrowing Fortune'; 'Oblivion Conquering Fame'; 'Love Subduing Oblivion'. There are four watercolour studies of the predella now in the Collection of the Watts Gallery, Compton (although as of April 2006, they are being prepared for de-accessioning and sale at auction).
Additionally, there are 'bronze' medallions decorating the top pilasters, depicting heroines of the Trojan War: Greek princesses Oenone and Iphegenia, and Trojan princesses Polyxena and Cassandra. A number of studies for the putti are also extant and in a host of different collections.