Over a long and extremely productive career, Francesco Solimena painted frescoes in many of the greatest churches in Naples, and he became one of the wealthiest and most famous European artists of his day. This painting, based on Virgil's Aeneid, is one of Solimena's masterpieces.
The Royal Hunt of Dido and Aeneas was painted for Count Raimondo Buonaccorsi, a provincial nobleman in the town of Macerata, on the east coast of Italy. The Palazzo Buonaccorsi housed one of the exceptional Italian decorative cycles of the early 18th century, the so-called Aeneid Gallery. There, some 20 paintings by prominent Italian artists illustrated scenes from Virgil's epic story of the journey of Trojan prince Aeneas. This work by Solimena—the focal point of the gallery—illustrates the episode in which Aeneas and Dido, queen of Carthage, are caught in a sudden storm while out hunting. They become separated from the rest of their party, shelter together in a cave, and make love for the first time. The goddess Juno orders rain and hail, and the hunting party scatters.