Ovid’s 'Metamorphoses' (II, 417–440) tells the story of the moon-goddess Diana’s favourite nymph Callisto, who was seduced by Jupiter in the form of the goddess herself. When Callisto’s pregnancy was discovered, Diana, who expected her followers to be as chaste as herself, punished Callisto by changing her into a bear and setting the dogs upon her. Callisto and her son Arcas were saved by Jupiter who transformed them into the constellations, the Great and the Little Bear. Boucher treated the same theme in several closely related versions in the 1760s, one of which was used as the basis for a Gobelins tapestry design. The present picture, painted the year before Boucher’s death, displays the looser handling and florid colouring of his late works, perhaps caused by the artist’s failing eyesight.
Where to see this painting?
The Wallace Collection
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