Inventory number
P01668
Author
Rubens, Peter Paul
Title
The Birth of the Milky Way
Chronology
1636 - 1937
Technique
Oil
Support
Canvas
Dimensions
181 cm x 244 cm
School
Flemish
Theme
Mythology
On display
No
Provenance
Royal Collection (Torre de la Parada, El Pardo-Madrid; New Royal Palace, Madrid, “paso de tribuna y trascuartos”, 1772, n. 991; New Royal Palace, Madrid, “antecámara”, 1794, n. 991; Royal Palace, Madrid, “antecámara”, 1814-1818, n. 991)

Hercules was born from one of Jupiter's affairs with a mortal. Though loved and protected by his father, he was repudiated by the latter's wife, Juno. In order to insure his son's immortality, Jupiter placed him in the goddess's arms so that he could suckle while she was sleeping next to her chariot pulled by peacocks. When, in his enthusiasm, Hercules bites her, Juno awakens and brusquely pulls him away from her. The milk spilling out of her breast turned into the Milky Way. On the left, Jupiter looks on. He is identified by his eagle and lightening bolts.

Rubens based this painting for the Torre de la Parada —a small royal palace near Madrid— on a work by Titian (Ca. 1485 - 1576), though the goddess's face is that of his wife, Hélène Fourment.

 
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