Io in Canopus
Fresco from Pompeii (Duke of Aumale house, VI. 9. 1).
Third style. Late 1st cent. BCE — first half of the 1st cent. CE.
Inv. No. 9555.Naples, National Archaeological MuseumPhoto by Egisto Sani

Io in Canopus.

Fresco from Pompeii (Duke of Aumale house, VI. 9. 1).
Third style. Late 1st cent. BCE — first half of the 1st cent. CE.
Inv. No. 9555.

Naples, National Archaeological Museum
(Napoli, Museo archeologico nazionale).

Pompeii, Archaeological Park, Duke of Aumale house (VI. 9. 1).
Pompeii, VI. 9. 1, Duke of Aumale house.
The fresco shows Io, recognizable by the small horns painted on her forehead, welcomed by the goddess Isis. Io is supported by a character identified as the god Nile. The goddess Isis is seated. The snake wrapped in her left arm and the crocodile on which she is resting her feet evoke her magical and therapeutic powers. The little boy at the left of the goddess is Harpocrat, god of silence, secrets and confidentiality. On her right side, two priests wrapped in white robes.

The location of this scene are the banks of the Nile river, where Io regained her human aspect. When she reached the river, she fell forward onto her knees and turning back her long neck with her face upwards, in the only way she could, looked to the sky, and with groans and tears and sad lowing seemed to reproach Jupiter and beg him to end her troubles. Jupiter threw his arms round his wife’s neck and pleaded for an end to vengeance. Appeased the wrath of Hera, so Ovid describes the return of the heifer Io to her previous human forms [Met. I, 736-746]:

Ut lenita dea est, vultus capit illa priores
fitque, quod ante fuit: fugiunt e corpore saetae,
cornua decrescunt, fit luminis artior orbis,
contrahitur rictus, redeunt umerique manusque
ungulaque in quinos dilapsa absumitur ungues:
de bove nil superest formae nisi candor in illa;
officioque pedum nymphe contenta duorum
erigitur metuitque loqui, ne more iuvencae
mugiat, et timide verba intermissa retemptat.

“The wrath of the goddess [Hera] is soothed; lo gams back her former looks, and becomes what she was before. The rough hair falls away from her body, her horns disappear, her great round eyes grow smaller, her gaping mouth is narrowed, her shoulders and her hands come back, and the hoofs are gone, being changed each into five nails. No trace of the heifer is left in her save only the fair whiteness of her body. And now the nymph, able at last to stand upon two feet, stands erect; yet fears to speak, lest she moo in the heifer’s way, and with fear and trembling she resumes her long-abandoned speech” (Translation: Frank Justus Miller, “Ovid - Metamorphoses”).

Source: exhibition note
© 2018. Photo: Egisto Sani.
Exhibition: “Ovidio: Loves, Myths & Other Stories”, Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome (17.10.2018 — 20.01.2019).
Text: museum label.
Keywords: ζωγραφικήί pictura ars picturae painting pittura malerei peinture φρεσκογραφία τοιχογραφία νωπογραφία wall fresco frescos frescoes opera parietale murale opere parietali murali affresco affreschi freskomalerei frischmalerei wandmalerei fresko fresken fresque fresques pintura mural ρωμαϊκές roman romana romano romani römisch römische römisches römischen römischer romain romaine romains romaines iii third style terzo stile pompeiano dritten stil troisième πομπηία pompeii pompeian pompei pompeji pompeianischen pompejanischen pompéi pompéien ελληνική μυθολογία mythologia graeca greek mythology mitologia greca griechische mythologie grecque ἁρποκράτης harpocrates harpokrates arpocrate harpocrate ἰώ ιώ io σφίγξ σφίγγα sphinx sfinge ώρος deus horus god dio oro horo himmelsgott gott dieu ἶσις ίσις isis iside personification personificazione personifikation personifizierung personnification ποταμός river fiume fluß rivière νείλος nilus nile nilo nil serpent snake serpente schlange serpens φίδι wreath kranz couronne corona rod staff bastone stab bâton caduceo hermesstab merkurstab heroldsstab caducée kerykeion caduceus κηρύκειον κηρύκειο priest sacerdote priester prêtre sacrificateur sacerdos ιερέα cup bowl coppa becher schale coupe flapping streaming wind-filled cloak mantello pieno di vento windgefüllter mantel manteau rempli de vent handshake handclasp clasp stretta mano handschlag händedruck poignée main serrant la dextrarum iunctio inter coniuges junctio dexiosis dexioomai δεξίωσις δεξιόομαι crocodile coccodrillo krokodil ροκόδειλος vessel vascello gefäß vaisseau priestess sacerdotessa priesterin prêtresse sacrificatrice sistro sistre sistrum σείστρο duke of aumale house vi 9 1 casa del duca in canopus canopo inv no 9555