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The Goat Amalthea with the Infant Jupiter and a Faun

The Goat Amalthea with the Infant Jupiter and a Faun is the earliest known work by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Created in the period between 1609 and 1615, the sculpture is now in the Borghese Collection at the Borghese Gallery in Rome.

Background

According to the art historian Filippo Baldinucci, before Pietro Bernini moved his family from Naples to Rome, Gian Lorenzo, who was only 8 years old, created a “small marble head of a child that was the marvel of everyone”. Later, in his teenage years, he created many works with putti, chubby male children. In addition, all these figures were nude and some of them winged. The Goat Amalthea with the Infant Jupiter and a Faun is one of the three surviving marble artworks of putti made by Bernini and the only sculpture among them that is dateable.

Myth

The goat of Amalthea is a divine goat who fed the baby Zeus with its milk. Its name is translated from the ancient Greek and means “gentle goddess.” Zeus’ father, Kronos (Cronus, Cronos), fearing to lose his power, swallowed up all his newly born children. His wife Rhea suffered greatly from this, and when the next child was born, she slipped a stone wrapped in diapers instead of Kronos.

Kronos swallowed the stone, not suspecting anything, so the kid had to hide. Rhea hid him on the island of Crete in the cave of Mount Ida. The goat Amalthea saved the life of the future supreme god. She produced two goatlings and fed Zeus with the abundant milk that appeared. Moreover, Amalthea hung on a tree baby Zeus in a cradle so that he could not be found either on the ground, or in the sky, or in the sea, when Kronos was looking for him.

Zeus was very fond of his goat-saver and Amalthea received from him a golden dog who guarded her until her death. Moreover, accidentally broken goat’s horn became a cornucopia. The legend of the goat Amalthea became the source of the phraseologism from the myths of ancient Greece, where the “cornucopia” term is used.

The one who held the cornucopia in his hands could get everything he wanted

The goat served Zeus even after her death. The god used her unusually strong skin (according to the ancient Greek aegis) for the shield during the war with the titans. Covering his shield with Amalthea’s skin, Zeus made him invincible, and under the aegis of his shield he began to fight with the titans. Thus, another popular expression “under the auspices” appeared.

According to another version of the myths of the ancient Greeks, Amalthea was not a goat, but a mountain nymph to which this goat belonged

Interesting Facts

  1. It was young Bernini’s first sculpture
  2. The goat of Amalthea is a divine goat who fed the baby Zeus with its milk
  3. The legend of the goat Amalthea became the source of the phraseologism from the myths of ancient Greece, where the “cornucopia” term is used
  4. The height of sculpture is 45 cm
  5. Zeus covered his shield with Amalthea’s skin, which made him invincible, and under the aegis of his shield he began to fight with the titans. Thus, another popular expression “under the auspices” appeared
Borghese Gallery in Rome,

Author: Gian Lorenzo Bernini

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As architect and city planner, he designed secular buildings, churches, chapels, and public squares, as well as massive works combining both architecture and sculpture, especially elaborate public fountains and funerary monuments and a whole series of temporary structures (in stucco and wood) for funerals and festivals.