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Key facts
Full title The Rape of Ganymede
Artist Damiano Mazza
Artist dates active 1573
Date made about 1575
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 177.2 x 188.7 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1824
Inventory number NG32
Location Room 9
Route B and C
Collection Main Collection
The Rape of Ganymede
Damiano Mazza
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A black eagle soars into the clouds with a naked youth clutched in its talons. In Greek mythology, Jupiter was infatuated with the handsome youth Ganymede, whom he abducted in the guise of an eagle and carried away to the home of the gods, Mount Olympus, where he was made their cupbearer.

The sole of the boy’s right foot is lit from below and his scarf floats beneath the bird’s powerful beating wings, creating the impression that the scene is taking place high up in the air. Mazza may have used suspended figures made of wood, clay and wax to work out the poses for his paintings, a technique he may have learnt from his presumed master, Titian.

The painting was originally shaped as an irregular octagon, but canvas was added in the early eighteenth century to make it up to a rectangle. At that time, Prussian blue was painted over the discoloured grey smalt pigment in the sky.

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