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The Origin of the Milky Way

The god Jupiter wished to immortalise his infant son Hercules, whose mother was the mortal Alcmene, so he held him to the breast of his sleeping wife, the goddess Juno, to drink her milk. However, Juno woke. The milk which spurted upwards formed the Milky Way, while that which fell downwards gave rise to lilies.

Tintoretto's painting has been cut down by about a third and what we see now is only the upper part of the original. In the missing lower part, known from a seventeenth-century copy, Ops, the embodiment of Earth and mother of Juno and Jupiter, reclines on a bank beside white flowers. The scene relates to a medal commemorating Tintoretto's patron, the physician Tommaso Rangone. It is li ...
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c. 1575
Oil on canvas
149.4 x 168.0cm
Image and text © The National Gallery, London, 2023

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