Aeneas and Dido have been caught in a storm created by the goddess Juno. They shelter in a cave and embrace. A putto (winged infant) holds Aeneas’s horse and two other putti hover above, one holding a burning torch and the other a bow and arrow as symbols of love and romance. In the sky is Juno, dressed in blue and wearing a crown. Venus sits beside her, accompanied by two white doves, symbolising lust. To their right, holding a torch, is Hymen, god of marriage.
The fierceness of the storm is conveyed by the bent and twisted tree branches, blown by wind coming from the top left corner. Through gloomy clouds, a ray of sunlight illuminates the detail and vibrant yellow-green tones of the foliage. The dappled areas of light and shade lead our eyes across the landscape into the distance.
Gaspard Dughet painted the landscape and Carlo Maratta added the figures and dogs.
Inspired by Virgil’s Aeneid, this painting shows Aeneas and Dido, Queen of Carthage, caught in a storm created by Juno (book IV: 119). To the right, Dido and Aeneas shelter in a cave and embrace – we see the moment before they kiss.
A winged putto holds Aeneas’s horse beside which stand his loyal hunting dogs. Two other putti hover above the cave, one holds a burning torch and the other a bow and arrow, both symbols of love and romance. In the sky to the left is Juno, dressed in blue, wearing a crown and holding a sceptre. Venus sits beside her, accompanied by the white doves that are one of her attributes, symbolising lust. To the right, holding a torch, is Hymen, god of marriage, who does not appear in Virgil’s story.
The fierceness of the storm is conveyed by the bent and twisted tree branches, blown by wind coming from the top left. Thick branches have been ripped from trees in the bottom left corner and beside the cave’s entrance. Although the painting has darkened with age, this scene is meant to be gloomy and imposing. According to Virgil’s story, Juno promises to ‘pour down from above a black rain mingled with hail’. Through heavy clouds, a ray of sunlight illuminates the detail of the foliage and its vibrant yellow-green tones. In the distance and to the left, figures flee the storm, some on horseback, struggling to move against the wind. The areas of the landscape in sunlight and shade and the rocky hills receding into the distance lead our eyes back and forth across the composition.
The landscape was painted by Gaspard Dughet, while Carlo Maratta added the figures and dogs. The figures were painted once the landscape was complete, suggesting that the artists planned the overall composition beforehand, though some alterations were made. A putto above Hymen was removed and the position of Venus was changed. Artists often collaborated on paintings to improve their training or reputation, but here it seems that Dughet and Maratta simply enjoyed working together. They were already established artists when the picture was painted in the late 1660s. Maratta ran one of the largest and most successful workshops in Rome during the second half of the seventeenth century.
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