Jove painting Butterflies (Jove, Mercury and Virtue)

Dosso Dossi1523-1524

Wawel Royal Castle

Wawel Royal Castle
Kraków, Poland

Dosso Dossi’s painting Jupiter painting butterflies is one of the most valuable works from Karol Lanckoroński’s collection. It was created around 1524 at the request of the Duke of Ferrara Alfonso d’Este and was probably intended for his private apartments in the Palazzo del Belvedere on the island of Padania in Ferrara. Later, it passed from hand to hand until, in 1888, it was purchased at the auction of Daniel Penther’s legacy in Miethke’s antique shop in Vienna by Karol Lanckoroński. In the palace at Jacquingasse, the work was one of the main features of the Great Italian Hall.
The painting survived the war turmoil of 1939–1945. Taken over from the repository in Alt Aussee by the Americans, it was returned to the Lanckoronski family on 31 July, 1947. At that time, it became a bargaining chip in the efforts to obtain permission to export Karol Lanckoroński’s entire collection from Austria. In 1951, Antoni Lanckoroński, Karol’s son, donated the painting to the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, thus obtaining permission to export a very large part of the family collection abroad to Austria. In 2000, Karolina Lanckorońska regained the painting in court – as a forced donation, which was proved by dr Johanna Kammerlander in a court in Vienna. In June 2000, Jupiter painting butterflies – by the decision of Karolina Lanckorońska – joined her gift from 1994 in the collection of the Wawel Royal Castle.
What does the picture show? Its content has been subject to many different interpretations.
Jupiter, with the face of Alfonso d’Este, paints butterflies with his eyes closed – he dreams of spring. Mercury, dressed in a cloak thrown over his shoulders, winged shoes (talaria) and a helmet (petazos), puts a finger of his right hand to his lips, ordering the woman approaching him to be silent. Thus, he wants to ensure Jupiter’s peace. His figure with a golden caduceus in his left hand is one of the earliest, fully Renaissance depictions of this deity. A landscape with a rainbow is visible in the background.
The key to reading the content of the painting is the elegantly dressed girl approaching Jupiter, silenced by Mercury.
Who is she? Is she Aurora? This is evidenced by her dress, described in this way by Homer and other classics. Or maybe Flora? Ovid, referring to the figure of the goddess, wrote that she would come to the spring festival ‘decorated with colourful wreaths of a thousand flowers’, when the Aurora will light up the sky. The figure on the right side of the painting is therefore associated with Spring, which will be preceded by Aurora.
Both modern literary works and the painting by Dosso Dossi refer to the ancient tradition. The painter relied on several literary works to create his own artistic vision. The carefully thought-out composition, the content of the work, which is not easy to read, as well as the sophisticated colour and extraordinary artistic proficiency, place the painting among the best works in Dosso Dossi’s oeuvre.

+ You can watch our video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4S3AEeku0N4&ab_channel=ZamekKr%C3%B3lewskinaWawelu

Based on the text by Prof. Marcin Fabiański, PhD.


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