The best-known account of the story comes from Ovid's 'Metamorphoses' (I, 583ff). Io was seduced by Jupiter and he then transformed her into a heifer in an attempt to deceive his wife, Juno. Juno, however, made Jupiter give the heifer to her whereupon she put it in the charge of Argus, the hundred-eyed watchman. Here, Lastman shows the moment when Juno descends to earth, surrounded by peacocks and asks for the heifer. He adds two figures not mentioned by Ovid - Cupid and the man with the mask which are allegories of love and deceit respectively. The tails of the peacocks have no 'eyes' yet. Jupiter later had Argus killed, and his hundred eyes were transferred to the peacock's tail.

Ovid's book had already been translated into Dutch in about 1590 and was often used by artists as a source for mythological subjects for their paintings: it eventually became known as the 'Painters' Bible'. The Dutch writer Karel van Mander in 1604 devoted a substantial portion of his 'Schilderboek' (Book of Painting) to the interpretation of Ovid's stories.

Product Code NG6272
artist Pieter Lastman
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Juno discovering Jupiter with Io

Pieter Lastman

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