Jupiter and Antiope is one of a number of large-scale paintings of nudes that Goltzuis executed between 1600 and 1617. In the present mythological scene, Goltzius captures the moment before Antiope, the beautiful daughter of Nycteus and Thebes, was seduced by Jupiter in the form of a satyr. The highly charged scene depicts Antiope asleep on her bed, propped up by a stack of gorgeously-colored cushions. She is naked apart from her earrings, a pearl necklace and a tiny strip of fabric that
accentuates rather than hides her nudity. At her feet kneels Jupiter in the form of a satyr, his look and attitude that of a half-wild creature consumed by lust. He stares fixedly at Antiope, his mouth in a rigid grin and his arms and back tensed, literally ready to pounce. In his right hand he holds an apple and some pears - an offering to Antiope – which, like the grapes in the foreground, are symbols of fertility. Scattered throughout the composition are other references to the event that is about to occur, including the inverted slippers beside Jupiter's knee and the overturned chamber pot, both of which represent female sexual organs. In the background of the painting is a somewhat ambiguous figure – a young satyr - who holds
his left index finger to his lip while lightly pinching Antiope’s nipple. Scholars have debated the meaning of the gesture possibly communicating caution to Jupiter to be quiet, or perhaps he is pointing at his mouth symbolizing Jupiter’s intent to devour Antiope.
Abraham Adelsberger was born on 23 April 1863 in Hockenheim, Germany. He established himself as one of the most successful manufacturers of tin-plate toys in the early 20th century, while at the same time nurturing a passion for art and building an impressive gallery at his home in Nuremberg. As fears for his safety increased, he fled Germany in 1938 and joined his daughter and her family in Amsterdam - managing to take several of his paintings with him, including Jupiter and Antiope.
Following his death two years later, his son-in-law was forced to sell the painting to Hermann Göring to ensure the safety of his family. His family went into hiding from 1943 onwards and all survived. Adelsberger’s wife, Clothilde, was deported to Bergen-Belsen, but also survived the concentration camp and the war. Göring, who assembled one of the most important collections of Old Masters in Europe at the time, had at least four works by or attributed to Goltzius in his collection, of which the present work was the most important. He took the painting to Carinhall, his country retreat in the north of
Brandenburg, and in early 1945, he ordered the evacuation of his entire art collection to protect it from the advancing Russian forces. The following year, the painting was recovered by the Allied forces and taken to the Central Collecting Point in Munich. From there, as was the common practice, the painting was returned to the country