The subject is from Ovid, 'Metamorphoses' (7: 701-14). This work is a cartoon for a prominent fresco composition on the ceiling of the Gallery in the Palazzo Farnese, Rome, which the early sources attribute to Agostino Carracci. The ceiling was probably begun around 1597, the major portion undoubtedly designed and executed by Annibale Carracci. The general theme was divine and earthly love illustrated by pagan subject matter.
It is thought that this cartoon is largely the work of Agostino Carracci in execution, but Annibale was connected with the project. Another cartoon in the collection, 'A Woman borne off by a Sea God (?)' was designed for the same project.