One suggested interpretation draws directly on the relation between Ovid’s myth and the powers of water and amorous coupling, as well as on Leonardo da Vinci’s Without denying this possibility, we should recognize other possibilities as well, as limiting ourselves to them would make the presence of the Twelve Caesars incoherent and out of place.
Regardless of whether they are original or a later addition to this piece, they oblige us to propose other interpretations of the myth presented by it, as the motif of Hermaphrodite bears enormous theoretical content in terms of both neo-Platonic philosophy and alchemy, as both wee understood in the erudite setting of the second Cinquecento.
When he bathes in the lake, she strongly embraces him and begs the gods to merge the two of them into a single body.
This, they do, creating a being with both sexes, represented here with both a female and a male head.
In the following scene, while resting beside a spring, he is called by Salmacis, a water nymph that has fallen in love with him.The narration refers to Hermaphrodite, as narrated in Ovid’s , beginning with the union of Hermes and Aphrodite.Their child, Hermaphrodite, is raised and educated by the nymphs.In 1716, they were at the Alcázar in Madrid but were later moved to La Granja de San Ildefonso, where they were listed in the so-called Casa de las Alajas following Philip V’s death.
In 1776, they were deposited in the Royal Cabinet of Natural History at the behest of Charles III, and they remained there until it was sacked by French troops in 1813.
Influenced by his father, he began collecting at an early age, acquiring his works in a variety of manners, including gifts and purchases at auctions.