Cupid, the god of love, climbs onto the back of Pan, the god of the wild, who is on all fours. Cupid subdues Pan by grabbing one of his ears, as surrounding onlookers react in apparent shock, gesturing vigorously with aghast expressions. A winged allegorical figure soars above, catching the attention of several figures below. Pan personifies carnal lust, so the struggle between the two gods represents the combat of divine and earthly love. The subject comes from a popular verse from the Roman poet Virgil (70 – 19 BCE): Omnia vincit amor (“Love conquers all”). The scene is set in Arcadia, a romantic paradise inhabited by nymphs and shepherds. The towering trees and expansive depth of the vista reveal Zuccaro’s interest in landscape painting.
The early provenance of this painting is unknown, and it was previously attributed to one of Zuccaro’s contemporaries, Giuseppe Cesari, more commonly known as Cavaliere d’Arpino (1568 – 1640). It was recognized in 1981 that this composition is in part derived from the central vault of the Sala d'Ercole (Room of Hercules) in the Villa Farnese at Caprarola, which was painted by Federico Zuccaro, leading to this tentative attribution. Authorship might potentially be ascribed to one of Zuccaro’s collaborators on this fresco, or to an artist who had access to the frescoes or their preparatory drawings.