Zeus' wife, Hera, a goddess jealous of usurpers, discovered his affair with Semele when she later became pregnant. Appearing as an old crone, Hera befriended Semele, who confided in her that her lover was actually Zeus. Hera pretended not to believe her, and planted seeds of doubt in Semele's mind. Curious, Semele asked Zeus to grant her a boon. Zeus, eager to please his beloved, promised on the River Styx to grant her anything she wanted. She then demanded that Zeus reveal himself in all his glory as proof of his divinity. Though Zeus begged her not to ask this, she persisted and he was forced by his oath to comply. Zeus tried to spare her by showing her the smallest of his bolts and the sparsest thunderstorm clouds he could find. Mortals, however, cannot look upon the gods without incinerating, and she perished, consumed in lightning-ignited flame. More on Semele
Zeus rescued the fetal Dionysus, however, by sewing him into his thigh. A few months later, Dionysus was born. This leads to his being called "the twice-born".
When he grew up, Dionysus rescued his mother from Hades, and she became a goddess on Mount Olympus, with the new name Thyone, presiding over the frenzy inspired by her son Dionysus. More on Semele
He was professor at the Académie Julian in Paris. Lefebvre is chiefly important as an excellent and sympathetic teacher who numbered many Americans among his 1500 or more pupils. Among his famous students were Fernand Khnopff, Kenyon Cox, Félix Vallotton, Ernst Friedrich von Liphart, Georges Rochegrosse, the Scottish-born landscape painter William Hart, Walter Lofthouse Dean, and Edmund C. Tarbell, who became an American Impressionist painter.
In the year 114 BC, three Vestal Virgins were condemned to death for transgressing with Roman knights the rigid law against sexual intercourse. To atone for their misdeeds, a shrine was dedicated to Venus Verticordia in the hope that she would turn the hearts of women and girls against licentiousness and towards chastity. Hence her name Verticordia, which means 'turner of hearts'. Under this title she was especially worshipped by married women, and on 1 April the Veneralia festival was celebrated in her honor. More on Venus Verticordia
In the 1860s, the Pre-Raphaelite movement splintered, with some of its adherents abandoning strict realism in favour of poetry and attractiveness. This move became explicit in Venus Verticordia (above), by Rossetti. Surrounding Venus, roses represent love, honeysuckle represents lust, and the bird represents the shortness of human life. She holds the Golden Apple of Discord and Cupid's arrow, thought to be a reference to the Trojan War and the destructiveness of love.
John Ruskin disliked the painting intensely. While it is now thought that his dislike of the painting was due to a dislike of the representation of the naked female form. Ruskin's hostility towards the painting led to a quarrel between Ruskin and Rossetti, and Rossetti drifted away from Pre-Raphaelite thinkings and towards the new doctrine of art for art's sake expounded by Algernon Charles Swinburne. More on this painting