Oil on canvas, 30.5cm by 38cm.
The god Zeus took the form of a human to seduce Semele; their son was Dionysus the god of wine.
This was one of four small paintings bought from the artist by John, 5th Earl of Exeter (1648-1700). See also PICs 238, 239 & 245.
It appears in the 1738 Burghley Inventory which records: ‘The Dressing room…….4 small Pieces; Jupiter and Alcmene, Danäe and the Golden Shower, Leda and the Swan, Ixion and the Cloud.’
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.