(b. ca. 1499, Roma, d. 1546, Mantova)

The Lovers

c. 1525
Oil on panel, transferred to canvas, 163 x 337 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

This painting illustrates Giulio Romano's penchant for erotic subject matter. It may show the encounter between Zeus and Alcmene: the alarmed dog at the maidservant's feet points to a breach of marital fidelity. The bed's carved decoration of a satyr and nymph may allude to another of Zeus's amorous adventures, when he assumed the guise of a satyr to make love to the nymph Antiope.

Alcmene was the mother of Hercules and the wife of Amphitryon, but the night she conceived Hercules and his twin brother Iphicles, Alcmene mated with both Zeus, who had disguised himself as her husband, and Amphitryon. As a result, Zeus was Hercules's father, but Amphitryon was the father of Iphicles.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.