Aug 21, 2006

The Birth of Venus

The Birth of Venus

c. 1516

Marco Dente

(Italian, c. 1486–1527)

after Raphael

(Italian, 1483–1520)


Gift of Ralph King 1923.1101

Catalogue raisonné: Bartsch XIV.243.323 ; Le Blanc II.111.17 ; Pass. VI.69.31



Marco Dente was one of several printmakers who re-created Raphael’s designs as engravings. Both of Dente’s compositions after Raphael (see also the engraving above) relate to the latter’s frescos in the stufetta, or bathroom, of Cardinal Bernardo Dovizi da Bibbiena’s apartments in the Vatican Palace. A scholar of classical antiquity and a patron of the arts, the Cardinal personally chose these mildly erotic female nudes, a common subject in bathroom decorations, even for members of the clergy. Depicted here is Venus, the goddess of love and fertility. According to the myth of her birth, she was created in sea foam from the castrated genitals of the primeval sky god Uranus. In the clouds, Uranus’s son Saturn, the god of time, prepares to mutilate his father with a curved sword. Meanwhile, Venus steps out of frothy waves onto a seashell.

See also
PR - Engraving
Type of artwork: 
Credit line: 
Gift of Ralph King

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