Recently I came across a wonderful pair of Derby figures that have now flown off to a new home... but I still wanted to show them to you.
Juno and Jupiter, made in about 1760, ride through the clouds at full speed in their chariots, their garments fluttering behind them, their well-built bodies full of energy, their faces enlivened by their adventurous journey.
These two figures were made at a time when Derby figures were particularly beautiful; the glaze translucent, the colours delicate and the bodies with an extraordinary sense of movement.
Soon after, as Derby figures became wildly popular, the increased production became more practical and "prettified"; these figures must have been very difficult to make and they are heavy.
So who were Juno and Jupiter, and why are they portrayed as a pair? Well, this is quite complicated as with many Greek and Roman myths, but Jupiter was both Juno's twin brother and her spouse. Peter Bradshaw explains the background of Juno and her peacock in his book 'Derby Porcelain Figures 1750-1848':
"Once, when Jupiter was making love to the minor goddess, Io, fearing he had been observed, he transformed her into a white heifer. Juno became suspicious and sent the hundred-eyed Argus to guard the animal. Jupiter called Mercury to assist him, who sent Argus to sleep by relating to him a long and boring story, and then slew him. Juno placed the hundred eyes in the tail feathers of the peacock, which henceforth became sacred to her name." (page 265).
Jupiter is the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Zeus, the king of all gods. Jupiter was the god of the skies and thunder, and you can see that he holds lightening in his left hand, and the animal travelling with him is a beautiful eagle, which of course is the king of all birds. In this wonderful portrayal of Jupiter he is a handsomely built strong chap, a red and gold crown on his head, and sporting a well-trimmed beard. With today's emphasis on youth, it is interesting to see that Jupiter is both of advanced age and great physical strength; an inspiration to us all to live healthy lives!
The pair is traveling in wonderful Roman chariots through the clouds - given this summer's chaotic airports, not a bad choice. I love how the peacock is clasping Juno's chariot tightly with its claws, and how their garments are fluttering in the wind.