02 October 2008


Ovid's next story is about Semele, one of Jupiter's mortal loves. Juno persuaded Semele to ask Jupiter to show himself to her in all his glory, and she got blasted.

Our first look at the story is this 1550s work attributed to Tintoretto and now in London's National Gallery. In the next century, Rubens also produced a Jupiter et Sémélé as part of a series of paintings on mythological themes. It is now in Brussels' Royal Museum of Fine Arts. Jan Voorhout (1647 - 1723) produced the undated picture below, now in the collection of Germany's Universität Göttingen.

In 1744 Handel wrote his opera Semele to a libretto written by Congreve for an earlier opera by John Eccles. The libretto was adapted for Handel by Newburgh Hamilton, who used some of Pope's verse in his adaptation. Those in the right part of the world at the right time might like to know that Handel's Semele is going to be performed at the Pacific Opera Victoria in British Columbia. Their website for this performance has a synopsis and video highlights of other performances of Handel's work. More unusually, here is a performance of an aria from Eccles's version.

Gustave Moreau painted two versions of Jupiter and Semele, shown below. Both are in the Musée Gustave Moreau. The left painting is slightly earlier, produced around 1890, while the one on the rightcomes from 1894 or 1895.

The Scottish artist John Duncan (1866-1945) painted this undated picture of Semele (click on the second picture from the right in the top row) by herself. Jupiter is not present, only Semele in flames.

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