The legend of Ganymede, the son of the founder of Troy, Tros, has had a homoerotic quality since Homer, because the Ionian poet for the first time clearly identified the lover of “the fairest youth of all that breath’d” (Iliad, 20:217) as Zeus. According to Homer, the god transformed himself into an eagle, abducted the object of his desire, and took Ganymede as cupbearer to Mount Olympus. The youth was to be granted immortal life, and in the end, Ganymede found his destiny as a sign of the zodiac (Aquarius). This tale poses a particular challenge to an artist, regardless of the medium: how to create a convincing portrayal of an eagle lifting an adolescent and soaring effortless into the sky. Correggio chose a narrow upright format, as he had done for the painting’s companion piece (KHM, GG 274), giving the composition a vertical character. Looking up in surprise, the sheep-dog forms the prelude to the movement: the viewer’s gaze is directed skywards, up over the tree-stump until Ganymede’s head, turned towards the viewer, interrupts the movement, while the eagle’s tongue delightedly licks the future lover’s arm. Correggio visually anchored the group on all sides: the eagle’s wings are cropped, the tree on the left “supports” Ganymede from below, and the youth’s delicate leg “rests” on a range of gentle hills in the background. Only Ganymede’s robe, which has been blown loose by the current, breaks the static equilibrium of the group and thus further enhances the impression of soaring flight. For the history of the commission, provenance and interpretation see KHM GG 274. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010


  • Title: The Abduction of Ganymede
  • Creator: Antonio Allegri, called Correggio
  • Creator Lifespan: 1489/95 - 1534
  • Creator Nationality: italian
  • Creator Gender: male
  • Creator Death Place: Correggio
  • Creator Birth Place: Correggio
  • Date Created: 1520/1540
  • Style: Italian Renaissance
  • Provenance: 1532 maybe owned by Emperor Charles V; 1605 bought by Emperor Rudolf II.
  • Physical Dimensions: w720 x h1635 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 276
  • Artist Biography: Born Antonio Allegri, Correggio was named after the town of his birth. His ability to manipulate light and shade to create luminous atmospheric effects resulted in some of the most sumptuous religious paintings of the Italian Renaissance. Giorgio Vasari, a sixteenth-century biographer of artists, wrote, "everything that is to be seen by his hand is admired as something divine." Correggio was profoundly influenced by the style and technique used by the painter Andrea Mantegna. By the age of twenty-nine, Correggio was probably working in Parma, the center of his greatest activity. The frescoes he painted in the dome of the cathedral there served as a model of dome decorations long after his death. Correggio inspired future generations of artists as diverse as the Carracci family, Rubens, and Boucher. ©J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Canvas

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