RUBENS, Peter Paul
(b. 1577, Siegen, d. 1640, Antwerpen)

Jupiter and Callisto

Oil on canvas, 202 x 305 cm
Staatliche Museen, Kassel

The heroic classicist style in the 1610s Which Rubens developed in his religious works was even more apposite in scenes derived from classical themes. Rubens painted many such subjects shortly after 1612. The action in them was carried out by a limited number of figures placed in the foreground and clearly highlighted, giving these paintings an almost relief-like appearance; it may well have been his intention to suggest a comparison with antique relief sculpture.

The Jupiter and Callisto is one of the many secular subjects Rubens painted in this relief style. The subject of the painting is taken from Ovid. Diana's nymphs were expected to be as chaste as the goddess herself. One of them, Callisto, was seduced by Jupiter who first disguised himself as Diana in order to gain the nymphs presence. Her pregnancy was eventually noticed by Diana who punished Callisto by changing her into a a bear and setting the dogs on her. But Jupiter snatched her up to heaven just in time.

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