Queer Catalog of the Hermitage
Jupiter and Callisto

Painting of Jupiter and Callisto. Amigoni, Jacopo. Italy, 1739. ГЭ-251. Off-site.
Painting of Jupiter and Callisto. Zichy, Mikhail. Hungary; Russia, 1862. Off-site.

One of the most popular ancient myths among European artists was the story of Jupiter’s seduction of nymph Callisto. According to the legend, the god of thunder fell in love with the companion nymph of goddess Diana. The goddess, however, didn’t allow her companions to have any relations with men. Then, Jupiter put on the appearance of Diana herself and thus had his feelings reciprocated.

This myth became a favorite legitimate way to portray a de facto lesbian scene. And if Jacopo Amigoni’s baroque painting depicts a revealing though tender and romantic embrace, Mikhail Zichy’s depiction is pure passion, nearing the art nouveau aesthetic with its unusually twisting lines. Unfortunately, neither of those paintings is part of the Hermitage’s permanent collection, which can’t help but point us towards the thought of museum censure.