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Jupiter seducing Callisto
Andrea Schiavone
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While resting in a leafy grove, the nymph Callisto believed she heard the goddess Diana greet her. But it was Jupiter disguised as Diana. Here Callisto seems to realise her mistake. As Jupiter caresses Callisto’s cheek, she places her right hand protectively on her thigh. Her knees bend in a curtsy or a faint and she appears shocked.

The brushstrokes in the fluttering draperies, which look almost like they’re drawn in chalk or pastels, lend a soft decorative beauty to this otherwise disturbing scene. This little painting originally decorated the end of a wooden chest. In the central panel Callisto’s fellow nymphs reveal her pregnancy to Diana (Musée de Picardie, Amiens). Arcas Hunting, for the other end of the chest, tells the final part of the story.

Key facts
Artist Andrea Schiavone
Artist dates active about 1530; died 1564
Full title Jupiter seducing Callisto
Group Two Mythological Scenes
Date made about 1550
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 18.7 x 18.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG1884
Location in Gallery Room 6
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Two Mythological Scenes

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These are two of three paintings made to decorate the front and sides of a wooden chest, known in Italian as a cassone. They depict the story of the nymph Callisto, as told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Such chests were important pieces of furniture used for storing clothes and household linen. A bride would be given one by her parents as a wedding gift and she would take it with her to her marital home.

Jupiter seducing Callisto is the first episode depicted. While Callisto was resting in a leafy glade, Jupiter appeared disguised as Diana, goddess of chastity. He seduced Callisto and made her pregnant. In the long painting for the front of the cassone (Musée de Picardie, Amiens) Callisto’s fellow nymphs reveal her pregnancy to Diana. When Diana discovered that Callisto was pregnant, she turned her into a bear. In the third episode of the story the bear is shot dead by Callisto’s son Arcas, who does not realise that it is his mother.

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