Jupiter and Semela by Gustave Moreau

Jupiter and Semela by Gustave Moreau

Not a single canvas demonstrates Moreau’s faith in the “need for luxury” as vividly as the painting “Jupiter and Semele,” on which the artist worked on for several years. He could not put the last point in any way, added more and more new details and even sewed additional strips of the canvas several times when he did not have enough space to reveal his idea to the end.

When the customer finally took the picture from the workshop, Moreau exclaimed sadly: “Oh, if I had at least two more months!” The scene depicted on the canvas is taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

The Theban princess Semelu was seduced by the king of the gods Jupiter.

The jealous and insidious wife of Jupiter, Juno, persuaded Semele to entreat God to appear to her in all her glory. Jupiter agreed, and Semele was killed by an extraordinary radiance emanating from him. Seeing this, Jupiter took from the womb of Semela an unborn fetus and stitched it into his thigh, from which the god of wine Bacchus was born.

In his picture, Moreau conveys the moment of the miraculous appearance of Jupiter. The massive figure of the god of gods sits on the throne, and naked Semele falls, blinded by the radiance emanating from her lover. The whole life and creative experience of the artist was embodied on this canvas, but few of his contemporaries understood and appreciated this work by Moreau.

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