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The Nurture of Jupiter

A story that captivated the ancient poets, the birth and nurture of the ancient Roman god Jupiter is a tale of deception and secrecy. A prophecy had warned the god Saturn that one of his children would defeat him and rule the universe in his place, so he swallowed all five of his children to avoid this fate. When Jupiter was born, his mother Rhea saved him by feeding Saturn a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes, hiding her new-born son in a cave on Mount Ida, Crete. Jupiter was brought up by two nymphs and nurtured with goat's milk and honey. When fully grown, Jupiter vanquished his father and forced Saturn to disgorge his brothers and sisters. 

The French painter Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) sets the scene on top of Mount Ida. A burly shepherd restrains the goat Amalthea by its horns, while a nymph lifts the goat to allow Jupiter to drink its milk. The second nymph behind them gathers honey from a tree trunk. The Nurture of Jupiter showcases Poussin’s delicate formal harmony and the subtlety of his colouring. 

Currently on display

Nicolas Poussin
Gallery 11
96.5 x 121 cm
Oil on canvas
Bourgeois Bequest, 1811
Accession number