Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“Aurora abducting Cephalus” by Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens - Aurora abducting Cephalus - Google Art Project

“Aurora abducting Cephalus” by Peter Paul Rubens

“Aurora abducting Cephalus” by Peter Paul Rubens depicts Aurora, the goddess of dawn stepping off her chariot to embrace Cephalus, a huntsman whom she was trying to abduct. The story of Aurora abducting Cephalus comes from Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’. This painting is an oil sketch for one of a series of paintings commissioned by Philip IV of Spain to decorate his hunting lodge, just outside Madrid. Rubens made extensive used oil sketches to explore and create design and composition concepts, and also as templates for the final full-scale canvases.

Peter Paul Rubens was a Flemish artist who is considered the most influential artists of Flemish Baroque tradition. Rubens specialised in making altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects. His compositions referenced classical and Christian history and emphasised movement, colour, and sensuality.


Aurora is the goddess of dawn in Roman mythology and Latin poetry. Aurora renews herself every morning and flies across the sky, announcing the arrival of the sun. Aurora appears most often in sexual poetry with one of her mortal lovers.


Cephalus is a name for the hero-figure in Greek mythology. In Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ is a huntsman whom Aurora was trying to abduct as her mortal lover.



  • In mythology why did the gods seek mortal lovers?

Aurora abducting Cephalus

  • Title:          Aurora abducting Cephalus
  • Artist:         Peter Paul Rubens
  • Year:           1637
  • Medium:    Oil on oak
  • Dimensions: Height: 30.8 cm (12.1 in); Width: 48.5 cm (19 in)
  • Museum:    National Gallery, London

Peter Paul Rubens


“Your arms were quicksand. Your kiss was death.”
– Samson


Photo Credit: 1) Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons