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

Jupiter and Io

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.

In the first picture, Io, daughter of Inachus, the first king of Argos, and of Melia, priestess of Hera, whose anger she aroused for having attracted the attention of Zeus, is invited by the latter, at night, in a dream, to follow him and lie with him in the meadows of Lerna. Zeus, camouflaged within a blackish cloud of constantly changing forms and in which his face and hand can be seen, undergoes new metamorphoses to conceal their loving from indiscreet gazes, covering them "with mist to show that divine things are concealed in the human face," as Ovid puts it in his story.

The naked priestess leans against a white sheet and her body and face convey an impression of ecstasy, of pleasure and amorous rapture, revealing a particular capture for erotic suggestiveness. This was what was demanded by the culture of the Duke of Mantua and his court, which did not shrink from the power of painting to stir the imagination. The chiaroscuro is particularly effective, with the rocky sward covered with shrubs suggesting an abandoned place ideally suited to a secret assignation.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 38 minutes):
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony in C Major (Jupiter-Symphony) K 551