The subject of Cephalus and Aurora comes from Ovid's 'Metamorphoses'. Aurora, the goddess of light or dawn, steps down from her chariot to embrace Cephalus, a huntsman whom she was trying to abduct.

The painting is a modello (oil sketch) for one of a series of paintings commissioned by Philip IV of Spain to decorate his hunting lodge, Torre de la Parada, just outside Madrid.

Rubens used oil sketches to explore his ideas about design and composition, and also as templates from which his assistants could generate full-scale canvases.

Key facts

Artist
Artist dates
1577 - 1640
Full title
Aurora abducting Cephalus
Date made
about 1636-7
Medium and support
Oil on oak
Dimensions
30.8 x 48.5 cm
Acquisition credit
Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number
NG2598
Location in Gallery