(b. ca. 1490, Correggio, d. 1534, Correggio)


Oil on canvas, 163,5 x 70,5 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Two vertical canvases depicting Io and Ganymede, datable to 1531-32, are now in Vienna. These were made for Federico Gonzaga, first duke of Mantua. The duke intended to line a room in his palace with the Loves of Jupiter. Jupiter was a mythical ancestor of the Gonzaga family and, in his amorous exploits, not unlike Federigo.

The Abduction of Ganymede, who is carried off by Zeus in the form of an eagle, has been seen as an allegorical interpretation that prefigured, in its moralizing intent, St John the Evangelist which Correggio painted several times in the church of the same name, and as referring to the flight of the intellect, liberated from earthly desires, toward the heaven of contemplation.

Ganymede, the son of Tros, who gave his name to Troy, or of Laomedon, the father of Priam, was the most beautiful of mortal youths. Zeus chooses him as his cup-bearer and, covered with eagle feathers, takes him away from his earthly games and from his dog, that looks on in fear as the abduction takes place. The landscape beneath is of an almost eighteenth-century modernity, to the point where it resembles a transparent English watercolour.