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Jupiter, the ruler of the gods, is seated on a cloud, his attribute of an eagle with thunderbolts in its beak beside him. He is embracing the goddess Minerva, his daughter. The scene is witnessed by a gathering of the gods of Olympus, clearly shocked by what they see.
Mercury, messenger of the gods, carries his winged caduceus (wand) in one hand and points toward the pair with the other. Diana, goddess of the moon, with her back turned, has abandoned her bow and her quiver full of arrows to watch. Apollo is seated with his lyre; Venus leans, naked, against a boulder as Cupid covers her with a shimmering drapery.
From 1596 Hans von Aachen was working in Prague. He was employed as court painter by the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, who was often depicted as Jupiter and for whom he may have made this picture. Rudolf may have been attracted by the idea of the powerful Jupiter’s union with Minerva, the goddess of wisdom.
Jupiter, the ruler of the gods, is seated on a cloud, his attribute of an eagle with thunderbolts in its beak beside him. He is embracing the goddess Minerva, his daughter. The scene is witnessed by a gathering of the gods of Olympus, clearly shocked at what they see.
Jupiter’s son Mercury, the messenger god, appears on the far left, wearing his winged hat and carrying his winged caduceus (wand). He points his finger at the pair. Chaste Diana, goddess of the moon, with her back turned, has abandoned her bow and her quiver full of arrows to watch. Below the cloud are Hercules with his club and Hades, the god of the underworld, with the three-headed dog Cerberus. The fair-haired Apollo is seated with his lyre, looking either at the gods above or at the naked Venus, who leans against a boulder as Cupid covers her with a shimmering drapery. Neptune with his trident leans lazily on the other side of the rock.
It is unclear what this unusual scene represents, but a drawing by the artist of the same subject (now the State Library of Württemberg, Stuttgart) may bear the answer. In around 1600 the drawing belonged to a man called Paul Jenisch, who explained the scene in an inscription. In translation it reads: ‘This shows how Jupiter abandons Venus and loves Minerva, to the amazement of all other pagan gods.’
From 1596, Hans von Aachen was working in Prague, where he was employed as court painter by the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, for whom he may have made this picture. Though the subject is unusual, it was probably intended to delight and entertain its sophisticated viewers with the variety of recognisable gods, the delicately coloured, luxurious draperies and the eroticism of Venus' pose. Rudolf was often depicted as Jupiter, for example in an allegory where he, as Jupiter with thunderbolts, defeats the Turks (Harrach Collection, Rohrau, Austria). He may have been attracted by the idea of the union between the powerful Jupiter and Minerva, the goddess of wisdom.
The soft pastel colouring matches the delicacy of the brushstrokes, and they combine to enhance the sense that the scene is taking place in the realm of the gods. A ruined classical style archway with a sculpture in a niche adds a sense of antiquity to the scene.
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