Skip to main content

Main Building

Jupiter and Callisto

Early 17th century
Attributed to Karel Philips Spierincks (Flemish (active Rome), 1609–1639)

Two women embrace passionately, but all is not as it seems. The woman at left appears to be Diana, Roman goddess of the hunt, yet is actually the god Jupiter, who morphed into Diana’s figure to seduce Callisto, one of her intimate female companions. In another scene, shown in the distance, Juno, Jupiter’s wife, takes out her rage on the duped Callisto rather than on her deceitful husband. During the 1600s, the narrative of Jupiter and Callisto attracted the attention of male artists and art buyers. They were titillated by the opportunity to view erotic scenes of women with other women, with a winking nod to the "real" identity of Jupiter beneath his disguise. Women’s writings from the same era reveal that some women identified with visual portrayals like this one for their own expressions of same-sex desire.


Object Details

We are always open to learning more about our collections and updating the website. Does this record contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? Contact us here.

Please note that this particular artwork might not be on view when you visit. Don’t worry—we have plenty of exhibitions for you to explore.

Main Building