The apotheosis of Aeneas
This painting cannot be understood without some familiarity with Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In fourteen songs, verses 581-609, Ovid recounts the Greek-Roman saga of how the Trojan prince Aeneas is elevated to become an Olympian god. Venus, the goddess of love, convinced Jupiter and the other gods that her earthly son Aeneas deserved apotheosis; in other words, he deserved to be made a god. Not only had he braved the kingdom of death Hades and sailed with Charon, but he had also survived all possible hardships during the Trojan War. Finally, Aeneas carried his aged father Anchises out of the burning city.
In the painting we see Venus in the process of turning Aeneas into an Olympian god by “bringing a mixture of ambrosia mixed with the sweetness of nectar to his mouth.” Behind Venus soars a small angel with a jar. It possibly contains the mixture, or perhaps the heavenly perfume that Venus uses to anoint her son.
In the foreground of the painting is Numicius and his people in the process of purifying Aeneas by rinsing everything deadly from his body, so that "only the best remains."
In Jordaens' time the story of Aeneas’ apotheosis was demonstrated as an example of the fact that all the love that one gives to one's parents comes back a thousand times.
Written by Eva de la Fuente Pedersen.
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