Oil on canvas, 30.5cm by 38cm.
Zeus created a cloud in the form of his wife Hera, in order to test Ixion, a Thessalian king who had tried to seduce her.
This is one of four small paintings bought by John, 5th Earl of Exeter (1648-1700) whilst on the grand Tour.
It was first recorded in the 1688 Burghley Inventory: ‘My Lords Clossett…2 peices a Lyda, a Ixion no frames by –.’ See also PICs 239, 244 & 245.
They were recorded again in 1738 and 1763, by which time, all four paintings were together.
In Rome Maratta was an apprentice in the studio of Andrea Saachi (1599-1661), a painter steeped in High Baroque Classicism, and with whom he formed a close friendship.
Maratta was also a noted portrait painter and painted many of the Grand Tourists during their time in Rome.
His work was much admired by the 5th Earl, who bought several of his paintings and who is said to have sat to Maratta for his portrait, though this sadly, is no longer extant.