JOHAN ZOFFANY, R.A.
Jupiter and Antiope
The artist by whom given to Major General Claude Martin (1735-1800), Lucknow, India, circa 1799
His sale, Tulloh & Co, Calcutta, 18 December, 1800
Purchased by Benjamin Wolff (1760 - 1866) presumably whilst in Calcutta,1817-1829,
Engelholm Manor, Copenhagen and by descent
In the top half of the sheet Antiope, a nymph and daughter of the Boeotian river god Asopus, is about to be surprised by Jupiter, who is in the form of a satyr. She is awoken from her sleep and then ravished by him. Antiope is shown reclining in a woodland setting whilst Jupiter as a satyr - horned and goat footed - approaches and draws back her robes. Cupid nearby draws his bow and arrow.
Below is a scene of putti playing, with one micturating on an arrow end which is simultaneously being sharpened. Is this a reference to the decidedly impure act of 'love' about to be caused by Cupid's arrow in the scene above? Seemingly not. The image of young boys urinating, puer mingens, has a long history in Western Art, both in painting and sculpture. The subject was sometimes used as an augury of fertility and fortune. The grinding of the whetstone may also represent a satirical joke, or as the 16th Century Italian writer Matteo Bandello termed it: 'sexual milling'. Zoffany's scene is a direct visual rendition of a line from a sonnet by Petrach in Il Canzoniere.
in che in suoi strali Amor dora et affina
where Love gilds and sharpens his arrows
Petrach, The Rime Sparse ( no. 151.7-8)