Mythological Scene

Object Details


Mythological Scene


Dosso Dossi (Giovanni di Niccolò de Lutero) (Italian (Ferrarese), about 1490 - 1542)




Italy (Place created)


about 1524


Oil on canvas


163.8 x 145.4 cm (64 1/2 x 57 1/4 in.)

See more

See less

An array of enticing visual clues has given rise to many theories about Dosso Dossi's Mythological Scene, but no one has determined the painting's precise meaning. The cupids in the sky, the lush setting, and the sensuous nude lying on a bed of flowers indicate that the subject is love. The male figure on the right is the Greek god Pan, a satyr. In Renaissance allegories he personifies lust, since he seduced the nymphs with the music of the pipes held in his left hand. The sleeping nude in the foreground may be the nymph Echo, who spurned Pan for Narcissus. The old woman at the center of the group could be Echo's protector Terra, who sits above her and shields her from harm. Next to the old woman and dressed in a green gown, billowing red cape, and armor is a mysterious and yet to be identified woman. Her costume indicates that she is likely a goddess. Dossi painted this figure and then changed his mind and covered her up with a landscape. She was uncovered again during a restoration in the 1800s.

Additional clues also tell scholars that the painting was cut down by about six inches on the left side at some point. The arm of another cupid can be seen at the painting's upper left edge, and a x-radiograph reveals the partially cut-off figure of a man under the lower part of the landscape. X-ray photographs also display various pentimenti, or alterations made by the artist. Initially, Dossi included a suit of armor and a sword hanging from the lemon tree, a cello held by the woman in the red cape, and a downward gaze for the old woman.

- 1851

Probably Spencer Joshua Alwyne Compton, second marquess of Northampton, 1790 - 1851 (Castle Ashby, Northamptonshire, England), probably by inheritance to his son, Charles Compton, 1851.

1851 - 1878

Charles Douglas Compton, third marquess of Northampton, 1816 - 1877 (Castle Ashby, Northamptonshire, England), probably by inheritance to his son, William Compton, 1878.

by 1894 - 1897

William Compton, fourth marquess of Northampton, 1818 - 1897 (Castle Ashby, Northamptonshire, England), by inheritance to his son, William George Spencer Scott, 1897.

1897 - 1913

William George Spencer Scott Compton, fifth marquess of Northampton, 1851 - 1913 (Castle Ashby, Northamptonshire, England), by inheritance to his son, William Bingham Compton, 1913.

1913 - 1978

William Bingham Compton, sixth marquess of Northampton, 1885 - 1978 (Castle Ashby, Northamptonshire, England), by inheritance to his son, Spencer Douglas David Compton, 1978.

1978 - 1983

Spencer Douglas David Compton, seventh marquess of Northampton, born 1946 (Castle Ashby, Northamptonshire, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1983.

Exhibition of the [...] School of Ferrara-Bologna, 1440-1550 (1894) (Cat. 56)
  • Burlington Fine Arts Club (London), 1894
Espozizione della pittura ferrarese del Rinascimento (1933) (Cat. 196)
  • Pinacoteca Nazionale (Ferrara), 1933
Exhibition of Works by Holbein and Other Masters of the 16th and 17th Centuries (December 7, 1950 to March 7, 1951) (Cat. 220)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), December 7, 1950 to March 7, 1951
L'Europe humaniste (December 15, 1954 to February 28, 1955) (Cat. 31)
  • Palais des beaux-arts (Brussels), December 15, 1954 to February 28, 1955
The Age of Correggio and the Carracci: Emilian Painting of the 16th and 17th Centuries (September 10, 1986 to May 24, 1987) (Cat. 38)
  • Pinacoteca Nazionale (Bologna), September 10 to November 10, 1986
  • National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), December 19, 1986 to February 16, 1987
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York), March 26 to May 24, 1987
Le siècle de Titien: L'âge d'or de la peinture à Venise (March 9 to June 14, 1993) (Cat. 81)
  • Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, (Paris), March 9 to June 14, 1993
Dosso Dossi: Pittore di corte a Ferrara nel Rinascimento / Dosso Dossi: Court Painter in Renaissance Ferrara (September 26, 1998 to July 11, 1999) (Cat. 38)
  • Civiche Gallerie d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Ferrara, September 26 to December 14, 1998
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York), January 14 to March 28, 1999
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), April 27 to July 11, 1999
Il Sogno nel Rinascimento (May 21, 2013 to January 26, 2014) (Cat. 9)
  • Palazzo Pitti, (Florence), May 21 to September 15, 2013
Related Media
  • /
    Audio: Mythological Scene