This picture, an early work by the artist, is probably datable to the 1760s, shortly before Kauffmann came to England in 1766. In her early years as an artist she signed her name 'Maria Angelica Kauffmann', or, as in the present work, 'M.A.K.'. At the time, she was studying in Italy, and was influenced by the Classical mythology and art around her.
In Classical mythology, Diana's nymphs were expected to be as chaste as the goddess herself, and were forbidden any contact with men. When Jupiter saw the beauty of Callisto, her attendant nymph, he disguised himself as Diana in order to seduce her, as depicted here by Kauffmann. When Callisto's pregnancy was discovered by Diana, she punished her by turning her into a bear, and setting the dogs at her, though Jupiter snatched her up to heaven to escape.
A print after Kauffmann's Jupiter and Callisto was published in 1782 by Thomas Burke as a pendant to a print after her Orpheus and Euridice.
We are grateful to Wendy Wassyng Roworth for suggesting the date of this picture.