Two Paintings by Correggio

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  • Two Paintings by CorreggioAuthor(s): Lauren SothSource: The Art Bulletin, Vol. 46, No. 4 (Dec., 1964), pp. 539-544Published by: College Art AssociationStable URL: .Accessed: 15/06/2014 10:00

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  • NOTES 539

    hill behind the women. It is inscribed Gloria in ex- celsis deo, a hymn normally belonging to representa- tions of the birth of Christ and not connected with other scenes.

    Unlike the painter of the Utrecht altarpiece, Alt- dorfer integrated symbols and landscape; the untamed countryside behind the representatives of the Old Testament is opposed to the cultivated fields behind the representatives of the New Testament. Thus the whole scene becomes a symbol for the mutation of the world effected by the birth of the Lord.




    In the spring of 1794, while the Terror raged in Paris, the painter Jacques Louis David went before the National Convention of the French Republic to make an impassioned plea for the preservation of works of art in the state collections. Referring to the painting illustrated in Figure I, David cried: "Vous ne recon- naitrez plus l'Antiope. Les glacis, les demi-teintes, en un mot tout ce qui caracterise particulierement le Cor- rige et le met si fort au-dessus des plus grands peintres, tout a disparu."'

    David's remarks indicate that Correggio's paint- ing had become popularly known as a representation of Jupiter and Antiope. This identification, still in com- mon use today, can be traced back only as far as an in- ventory of 1709/10.2 Prior to the eighteenth century, the painting was always described in such terms as "Venere e Cupido che dorme, con un Satiro," to quote the earliest document mentioning it, a 1627 inventory of the Ducal Gallery at Mantua.'

    In the picture itself, we see a female nude and a Cupid asleep in a wood. To the right of the nude lies a quiver with arrows. Between the two figures lie, par- tially covered, an inverted torch and a bow on which the nude rests her left hand. A satyr, apparently having just uncovered the nude, looks on with an expression of exquisite longing.

    * To the best of my knowledge, A. E. Popham (Correg- gio's Drawings, London, 1957, p. 89) was the first to suggest a thematic connection between the two paintings discussed in this note. The suggestion was repeated by Cecil Gould in his National Gallery Catalogue: The Sixteenth Century Italian Schools (Excluding the Venetians), London, I962, p. 27. The proposal that the celestial and terrestrial Venuses might be involved was made by Professor Erwin Panofsky in a semi- nar at New York University, Fall 1962. I would like to thank Professors Panofsky and H. W. Janson for their helpful sug- gestions. I am also indebted to Dr. Norman Neuerberg for aid in obtaining illustrations and to Carleton College for funds to purchase photographs.

    i. J. L. Jules David, Le peintre Louis David, Paris, 188o, pp. 171-I72.

    2. Fernand Engerand (ed.), Inventaire des Tableaux du Roy redige en 70o9 et r7'i par Nicolas Bailly, Paris, 1889, p. 129.

    The question is, who is this nude? Is she Venus, as the early sources attest? Or is the more recent critical tradition correct in identifying her as Antiope?

    Let us examine the latter hypothesis first. In classical mythology, Antiope, the daughter of Nycteus, was se- duced by Jupiter in the form of a satyr. After her fath- er's death, she became a ward of her uncle Lycus and his wife Dirce. The twin sons she bore to Jupiter, Amphion and Zethus, were left on a mountain to die but were saved by a herdsman.

    Antiope was cruelly treated by Dirce and eventually fled, with Dirce in pursuit, to the hut where her sons, now grown up, were living. The youths revenged their mother by tying Dirce by the hair to the horns of a wild bull.

    In ancient art, it was the climax of this story, Dirce's punishment, which was usually depicted, as on a wall of the House of the Vettii, Pompeii, or in the Farnese Bull.

    There appears to be only one instance in antiquity in which the seduction of Antiope is shown. In a Roman mosaic in Palermo (Fig. 3), two scenes are recogniz- able as Jupiter seducing Leda in the form of a swan and Danae in the form of a golden shower. In keep- ing with the theme of the loves of Jupiter, the third scene in this row must represent the seduction of An- tiope, since it was only on that occasion that the god transformed himself into a satyr to attain his ends,' although the woman here is characterized as a bac- chante.

    In this representation, Antiope is definitely not sleeping, as is Correggio's nude. Nor is she described as asleep in any of the ancient literary versions of the myth.5 If Correggio's painting does portray Jupiter and Antiope, it is without precedent in either antique art or literature.

    The image of a satyr uncovering a sleeping nude did exist in antiquity, however, in a different context. It was used, to quote Saxl, "to represent the discovery of Ariadne by Bacchus by showing one of the ill-man- nered members of his cortege unveiling her."'

    Saxl has further pointed out the dependence of one of the woodcuts of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (Fig. 5) on such a classical model.' This woodcut illustrates

    3. Published by Carlo d'Arco, Delle arti e degli artefici di Mantova, Mantua, 1857, p. 153. For other references to this painting see Silvia de Vito Battaglia, Correggio Bibliografia, Rome, 1934.

    4. J. Overbeck, "Das grosse Mosaik auf der Piazza della Vittoria in Palermo," Berichten der philologisch-historischen Classe der k6nigl. Sachs. Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, 1873 (pamphlet reprint, Leipzig, 1875). The attributes given to Antiope here are not out of place for her myth "took on a Dionysiac colouring, Antiope being represented as a Maenad and Zeus as a Satyr" (A. B. Cook, Zeus, I, p. 735 with further bibliography).

    5. W. H. Roscher, Ausfiihrliches Lexikon der griechischen und r6mischen Mythologie, Leipzig, 1884-1886, I, col. 380. Neither Boccaccio nor the 16th century mythographers, Giraldi, Conti, and Cartari, describe Antiope as being asleep.

    6. Fritz Saxl, Lectures, London, 1957, p. 162. 7. Ibid. The illustration appears on fol. eir of the Hypner-


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    i. Correggio, Jupiter and Antiope (here identified as Terrestrial Venus). Paris, Louvre (photo: Alinari)

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    2. Correggio, The Education of Cupid (here identified as Celestial Venus). London, National

    Gallery (photo: Alinari)

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    a sculptured fountain described by the author, Fran- cesco Colonna, in his seventh chapter. It dates from 1499, the year the book was published in Venice, and therefore stands at the head of a long line of similar representations, including Correggio's.8

    Like the Antiope, the nude in the woodcut has an ambiguous identification. She is referred to in the text as "una elegante Nympha iterscalpta" but an inscrip- tion under the fountain (contained in the text also) implies that the figure is Venus.9 As the author com- pares her to Praxiteles' statue of Venus, this implica- tion may have been intended. It is typical of Colonna's cultural snobbishness that, throughout his text, he rarely names mythological characters but expects his readers to know who they are.

    Of the numerous sixteenth century versions of the sleeping nude and satyr image,10 only three can be identified, with varying degrees of certainty, as Jupiter and Antiope:

    I. A medallion on a playing board by Hans Kels, dating from I537 and in Vienna (Fig. 7).11 The in- scription around the medallion is specific: IOVIS IN FORMA SATIRI CUM ANTIOPA CONCUBI- TUS. Antiope, nude, sits on a bed under a baldacchino while Jupiter approaches from the right.

    2. An etching by the monogrammist LD, from a design by Primaticcio (Fig. 4).12 From the presence of an eagle, we may infer that the satyr here is indeed Jupiter in disguise.

    3. A painted scene on a Venetian chest in the Staat- liches Museum, Schwerin (Fig. 6). Cupid watches a satyr uncover a sleeping nude lying on a bed outdoors. That these figures are Jupiter and Antiope may be in- ferred from the other scene. It obviously derives from Titian's Diana and Callisto.13 In order to seduce Cal- listo, Jupiter had assumed the form of Diana herself. Here the real Diana is showing expelling the nymph from her train.

    If one of the scenes on this chest can be identified as the story of a love of a transformed Jupiter, it is natural to expect its pendant to be another. (As already mentioned, it was only for his rendezvous with Antiope

    that the god became a satyr.) Furthermore, according to one ancient tradition, Callisto was also a daughter of Nycteus."1 If it seems natural to match one love of Jupiter with another, it would be even more natural to match incidents involving two sisters.

    If we compare these three works with Correggio's so-called Antiope, significant differences are notice- able. Where the authentic Antiopes rest in elaborate beds--even the anonymous artist of the Venetian chest has clumsily dragged one into his landscape-Correg- gio's lies on the bare ground. She is accompanied in sleep by Cupid. This figure does not appear in the Kels or the Primaticcio (unless it be claimed that the wingless putto is Cupid)15 and he plays more of a spec- tator's role on the chest.

    On this comparative basis, there are grounds for denying to Correggio's nude the name of Antiope. Is there evidence to support the earlier identification of Venus?

    To answer this question, we must take into account another of Correggio's paintings, the Education of Cupid in the National Gallery, London (Fig. 2). This painting is first mentioned in the same 1627 inventory as the so-called Antiope and presumably was done for the ruling family of Mantua, that is, for Federigo Gon- zaga II or his mother, Isabella d'Este. It is described in the inventory as "un quadro con sopra una Venere et un Mercurio che insegna a leggere a Cupido." In the painting, we have no trouble recognizing Mercury and Cupid; but why the winged nude holding a bow on the left should be identified as Venus is a puzzle that we shall have to return to later.

    The source of the Education of Cupid is again to be found in the Hypnerotomachia, not in the illustrations but in a description, in the fifth chapter, of the sculp- tural decoration of a monumental portal. (The portal is illustrated but the spaces for the decoration are blank.) As there will be occasion to refer to parts of this description again, the entire passage is quoted here with the details corresponding to Correggio's painting in italics.16

    8. For a list, see A. Pigler, Barockthemen, Budapest, 1956, pp. I33-i34 ("Jupiter als Satyr bei der schlafenden Antiope") and pp. 238-239 ("Venus und Satyr").

    9. Fol. d8r. This interpretation is pointed out but rejected by Giovanni Pozzi in M. T. Casella and G. Pozzi, Francesco Colonna: Biografia e opere, Padua, 1959, II, p. 69. I am indebted to Madlyn Kahr for giving me the reference to this book.

    io. See note 8. The popularity of this image, originating in and propagated by the Hypnerotomachia, was so great that it was utilized in several different contexts: Jupiter and Antiope, Venus and Satyr, Nymph and Satyr, even for the story of Amymone. As Apollodorus told it (Library 2. i, 4) it was the satyr who was asleep, not Amymone, but in an en- graving by Girolamo Mocetto their roles have been reversed in accordance with the Hypnerotomachia woodcut. See Arthur M. Hind, Early Italian Engraving, London, 1948, v, p. 166, vii, pl. 728.

    Of all these representations, the most famous is Titian's painting in the Louvre. It offers a parallel to Correggio's pic- ture: the early sources refer to the sleeping nude as Venus; later critics, as Antiope. See Paul Hofer, "Die Pardo-Venus

    Tizians," Festschrift Hans R. Hahnloser, Basel, 1961, pp. 34iff.

    11. Albert Ilg, "Das Spielbrett von Hans Kels," Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen sammlungen des Allerhb-chsten Kaiser- hauses, III, 1885, p. 53.

    12. J. D. Passavant, Le Peintre-Graveur, Leipzig, x864, vx, p. 19o, No. 71.

    13. It must date therefore after 1559 and not ca. 154o as given by Paul Schubring, Cassoni, Leipzig, 1915, p. 418. Schubring already identified the other scene as Jupiter and Antiope but gave no reasons for doing so.

    14. Apollodorus (citing Asius) Library 3. 8, 2. 15. Nor are there bow, quiver and arrows, nor torch in

    the Antiope scenes on Kels' playing board and the Venetian chest. In the Primaticcio, however, a small bow and a baton- like object (quiver?) lie near the putto. This would seem to indicate that he is Cupid after all, although the absence of wings is difficult to explain. There are also flames near by, but their source is not visible.

    16. Fol. c4rff. The same passage in the Elizabethan trans- lation reads:

    "First vpon my right hande belowe, I beheld a stilypode

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  • NOTES 541

    "Alla dextera primo se repraesenta uno stilypodio, ouero columnipedio sotto le base dille columne . . . summa cu diligentia era inscalpto uno homo d...