Polyxena was the beautiful daughter of King Priam of Troy. She and the Greek hero Achilles fell in love, but her brother Hector refused to let her marry an enemy of the Trojans. Achilles killed Hector during battle and was himself killed by Paris to avenge Hector's death. After the defeat of Troy the ghost of Achilles requested that Polyxena be sacrificed to honour his tomb.

In 'The sacrifice of Polyxena', painter Giovanni Battista Pittoni shows her being led with dignity to the tomb where she asks Neoptolemus, Achilles' son, to kill her, preferring death to enslavement by the Greeks.