Classically proportioned sea gods and goddesses, partially clad in intensely colored drapery, form a dramatic procession against a light blue sky. This painting illustrates an episode in Francesco Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (Strife of Love in a Dream of Polyphilus), an extravagant Renaissance tale of a dream-journey through antiquity. To the left, the lovers Polyphilus and Polia are ferried to Cythera, the island of love. The sea goddess Amphitrite, reclining in a shell at the lower right, and Neptune, seated high on a shell and holding his triton, watch the boat depart from amid a crowd of figures.
Although it was first published in 1499, Colonna’s book enjoyed immense popularity in seventeenth-century France. Marine Gods Paying Homage to Love is one of Eustache Le Sueur’s eight canvases illustrating the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili; it was painted as a model for a Gobelins tapestry that was never executed.
(Text courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program, CC BY 4.0).