Correggio (Antonio Allegri) Ganymede 1531-32 Oil on canvas, 163,5 x 70,5 cm Italian Renaissance, Mannerism

Form: As in Correggio's Jupiter and Io, this painting of Ganymede contains the main elements of Mannerist painting.  Correggio paints the fantastic in an illusionistic and believable manner.  He shows us he has the traditional renaissance command of illusion.  In this painting the atmospheric perspective is quite clear and he shows us how skillfully he is able to foreshorten the figures anatomy as if we are looking at the scene from slightly above the horizon line, but this changed vantage point is odd.  On closer inspection Correggio gives us a weird or distorted sense of space.  The viewer is not firmly on the ground but seems to be floating above the scene with the young boy who is being abducted by the eagle.  The figure of boy's anatomy is distorted as in Jupiter and Io.  The head is a bit too small and the torso is elongated but on first glance it seems believable.  The pose is somewhat improbable but again it looks real.
Correggio use of color is also somewhat "over the top."  His use of colors is highly saturated and high key.  Meaning that the colors are bright very pure and intense.  This is also one of the hallmarks or the Mannerist style.

Iconography:  Correggio even takes the idea of classicism and the depiction of classical mythology and puts a spin on it.

Ganymede is the young, beautiful boy that became one of Zeus’ lovers. One source of the myth says that Zeus fell in love with Ganymede when he spotted him herding his flock on Mount Ida. Zeus then came down in the form of an eagle or sent an eagle to carry Ganymede to Mount Olympus where Ganymede became cupbearer to the gods. According to other accounts, Eos kidnapped Ganymede, to be her lover, at the same time she kidnapped Tithonus. Zeus then robbed Eos of Ganymede, in return granting Eos the wish that Tithonus be immortal. Unthinkingly, Eos forgot to ask that Tithonus remain youthful. Everyday, the faithful Eos watched over Tithonus, until one day she locked him in a room and left him to get old by himself. 

When Ganymede’s father, King Tros of Troy or Laomedon, found out about Ganymede’s disappearance, he grieved so hard that Zeus sent Hermes on his behalf to give Tros or Laomedon two storm footed horses. In other accounts, Zeus gave Tros a golden vine and two swift horses that could run over water. Hermes was also ordered to assure the bereaved father that Ganymede was and would be immortal. Later, Heracles asked for the two beautiful horses in exchange for destroying the sea monster sent by Poseidon to besiege the city of Troy. Tros agreed and Heracles became the owner of the bribe sent by Zeus to Tros. 

Upon hearing that Ganymede was to be cup bearer as well as Zeus’ lover, the infinitely jealous Hera was outraged. Therefor Zeus set Ganymede’s image among the stars as the constellation Aquarius, the water carrier. Aquarius was originally the Egyptian god over the Nile. The Egyptian god poured water not wine from a flagon. 

All of Zeus’ scandalous liaisons have allegorical meanings. Zeus’ torrid affair with Ganymede was a religious justification for homosexuality within the Greek culture. Before the popularity of the Zeus and Ganymede myth spread, the only toleration for sodomy was an external form of goddess worship. Cybele’s male devotees tried to achieve unity with her by castrating themselves and dressing like women. 

Apollodorus argued that this myth emphasized the victory of patriarchy over matriarchy. This showed that men did not need women to exist, therefor they did not need the attentions of women. The philosopher Plato used this myth to justify his sexual feelings towards male pupils.

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