Based loosely on a Trojan War character found in Homer’s Iliad (8th century BCE), Cressida’s modern-day persona stems from medieval and Renaissance retellings of her story as a love triangle. As popularized in works by Geoffrey Chaucer (1343–1500) and William Shakespeare (1564–1616), Cressida pledges her love to Trojan prince Troilus. After she is traded in a hostage exchange, the Greek hero Diomedes seduces her and thereafter Cressida becomes identified as a literary symbol of the ‘faithless lover.’
Hermine David’s delicate, detailed designs exquisitely convey the moods ranging from fervent passion to emotional detachment, visually reconstructing the lovers’ tumultuous relationship. In drypoints that often occupy their own page, the figures inhabit an intimate, idyllic world that includes both lush, pastoral landscapes and grand, classical architecture. One of the few women painters involved with the School of Paris, David discovered her love for printmaking while studying at L’Académie Julian in Paris. Exhibiting widely in Paris throughout the 1910s, she turned to book illustration in the 1920s, engaging with works by many notable authors, including Paul Verlaine, Marcel Proust, and Lord Byron.