An allegory of the eternal alternation of day and night, the painting shows Aurora rising, moving away from her husband Tithonus, to whom Jupiter had granted immortality but not eternal youth. Tithonus, as old and decrepit as he could be, is seen shielding his eyes from the blinding light of dawn.
This is a late work, made after 1760 by Francesco De Mura, Solimena’s favourite pupil. De Mura was much sought-after in Naples and Turin, where he made canvases and frescoes for churches and royal palaces, as well as cartoons for tapestries. These were all works in which the artist demonstrated his ability to lighten the monumental compositions of Solimena by using elegant and refined images inspired by the fragile passions of Metastasio’s contemporary melodrama, and with pervasive and atmospheric lighting. The formal elegance and carefully studied composition of the painting on display, which was the result of numerous preparatory studies, reveal the remarkable attention with which, especially after the 1750s, De Mura studied Roman classicism, which was mediated in Naples by the presence of the court architects, Luigi Vanvitelli and Ferdinando Fuga, as well as by painters such as Sebastiano Conca. See the references (Spinosa 1993) for other versions of the same subject, autograph replicas, studies or source material from the fresco on the bedroom ceiling of Charles of Bourbon and Maria Amalia of Saxony in the Royal Palace which was destroyed during the Second World War.