Il Contento
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Il Contento about 1607
'Il Contento' illustrates an episode in the Spanish picaresque novel 'Guzman de Alfarache', published by Mateo Alemán in Madrid in 1599 and issued in an Italian version in 1606. In the story, the people on Earth worshipped the god Contento (god of contentment and happiness) more than any other. Jealous of this, Jupiter sent Mercury to abduct Contento and replace him with his twin brother Discontento. Elsheimer was the first artist ever to depict this story, but he deviated from the novel by turning Contento into a female goddess. On the left, Jupiter hovers in mid-air while directing Mercury, who is seen wearing his distinctive winged hat and pulling Contento above the devoted crowd. In the background, people enjoy a variety of sports and games, unaware of their imminent ‘discontentment’.

Glossary Open

Picaresque

Fiction dealing with the adventures of a dishonest but appealing hero.

Picaresque

Details

  • Acc. No. NG 2312
  • Medium Oil on copper
  • Size 30.00 x 42.00 cm
  • Credit Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Gallery of Scotland, 1970