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The Myth of Callisto

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The Myth of Callisto

late 1560s
16th century
22.9 cm x 35.1 cm (9 in. x 13 13/16 in.)

Federico Zuccaro (Sant'Angelo in Vado (Marches), Italy, 1540-1542 - 1609, Ancona, Italy) Primary
Baldassare Peruzzi (Siena, Italy, 1481 - 1536, Rome, Italy) after

Object Type: drawing
Artist Nationality: Europe, Italian
Medium and Support: Black and red chalks on antique laid paper
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Jack S. Blanton Curatorial Endowment Fund, 2004
Accession Number: 2004.162

After a fresco in the Villa Farnesina by Baldassare Peruzzi, Federico Zuccaro was following an age old practice of learning how to draw: copying. For each of the bulls, Zuccaro explores the range of a single color, paying special attention to describing the bulls’ anatomy, texture, and whimsical expressions. But throughout the rest of the drawing, red and black chalks interlace. In the figure of Callisto, the two colors appear equally, gestural lines merely suggesting her body.

In the original fresco, Baldassare Peruzzi may have merged imagery from different myths, where Zeus sometimes appears as a white bull. In the story of Callisto, Zeus transforms the nymph and her son, Arcas, into the constellations Ursa Major and Minor. The chariot may represent Hera, Zeus’s wife, who tore across the night sky, enraged at their immortalization.

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