Object Image

Dido receiving Aeneas and Cupid disguised as Ascanius

The Aeneid, an epic poem by the Roman writer Virgil, tells the story of Aeneas, a Trojan hero and son of the goddess Venus. In Book I, Aeneas comes to the city of Carthage. Worried for his safety, Venus devises a plot to protect him: she sends Cupid to the city disguised as Aeneas' son Ascanius, to make Dido, Queen of Carthage, fall in love with the hero.

Solimena's monumental picture shows the disguised Cupid approaching Dido - only we can see the wings and arrows that identify him. Aeneas, wearing a green leather breastplate, holds out a hand to greet the queen. She appears to be interested only in Cupid, ignoring the precious gifts being offered to her. Bright light illuminates the sumptuou...

Oil on canvas
207.2 x 310.2cm
Image and text © The National Gallery, London, 2023

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