Correggio’s Fantastical Mythological Masterpiece is one of Correggio’s crowning achievements with its ineffable sfumato. This painting is one of presumably four that the Duke of Mantova commissioned from Correggio to depict some of the many Loves of Jupiter.
Correggio conjures and crafts Jupiter as a dark and nebulous, literally and figuratively, cloud, and a human face to this apparition. This is in contrast with how he depicts Io as a mortal, detailed, precise, realistic human.
The story of Jupiter and Io is inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses: “Io, daughter of Inachus, the first king of Argos, is seduced by Jupiter (Zeus in Greek), hides behind the dunes to avoid hurting the jealous Juno (Hera in Greek).”
Jupiter was often tempted by other women and took on various disguises in order to cover his various escapades, one time taking the form of a swan, another time of an eagle, and in this painting he is not becoming something else so much as enveloping himself in a dark cloud, even though it is bright daylight.
“He is embracing the nymph, his face barely visible above hers. She is pulling Jupiter’s vague, smoky hand towards herself with barely contained sensuality; this is a sensual painting, depicting one of the many loves of the god. Indeed, the Duke of Mantua, Federico Gonzaga, wanted to place the painting and its companion pieces in a room dedicated to the loves of Jupiter.”