Plimco got me thinking today about Correggio’s Jupiter and Io, which I think is one of the hottest pieces of art to ever have been created. I think, for me, it’s her slight smile as she turns her cheek to his lips and the way you can almost feel the cool fabric against her leg as it slides right to make room. That, and how firmly she grasps his right… cloud part/arm. I mean, look at how round she is, not anything firm on her, except the hard line of her spine, and that shoulder.
I don’t really know a lot about art. I don’t really know how to write about it. But I like to look at this painting. I like how the blues and dark golden browns balance each other and how she and her white robe hang between them (it’s like a shout-out to her lunar nature). And I love the contrast between the sharp realism of her face and hair and robe and the more dreamy suggestion of the shape of the cloud and the tree and the ground around her.
But here’s what’s really interesting to me. I think it means something that all of the things we might call ‘artifice’ are what Correggio makes so sharp and clear. We see clearly the hairdo, the fabric, her subtly made-up face, and the handle and rim of the vase. The natural things are less clear, though we can make out the thrusting roots and the clod of dirt reaching around Io’s waist and the leaves and vines spilling out of or into the vase.
The suggestion is, I think, that Jupiter is not just the cloud, but the ground and the tree–everything natural–right?
So, what’s it suggest about the nature of the divine, at least in Correggio’s eyes, that parts of Jupiter are becoming clear–his face, his hand? If a clear rendering indicates some level of artifice, then clearly (tee hee) Correggio’s suggesting that the parts of the gods that most resemble us are artifices designed for ease of interaction with us, right?
I don’t know. It’s like there’s some truth right there on the tip of my tongue about how a god like Jupiter seems to be a manifestation of something wild and deeply rooted in nature, that/who can pull his power from nature, and also transform into something recognizable by us.
There’s a lot going on in this picture, for as still as it is. It seems dark in the sky behind Jupiter, but the scene is brightly lit. Io is hanging on the brink of sexual ecstasy, between heaven and earth. And Jupiter hangs there between natural, supernatural, and human. Everything’s in a moment of transition. The world is changing.
And I love that Io is open to it.
p.s. How beautiful is the Kunsthistorisches Museum’s online rendition of this painting? Damn.