Venus Discovering the Dead Adonis

Venus Discovering the Dead Adonis

c. 1650

Oil on canvas

Framed: 213.5 x 268.7 x 8 cm (84 1/16 x 105 13/16 x 3 1/8 in.); Unframed: 184.4 x 238.8 cm (72 5/8 x 94 in.)

Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund 1965.19



Venus, the goddess of love, urged her mortal lover Adonis to hunt only the easiest game. Yet he insisted on pursuing boar, which eventually gored him to death. In this scene, Venus discovers the young man robbed of his youth, yet the painting eternally preserves him in a state of perfection. This paradox corresponds to wordplay in Italian poetry from the 1600s, with which many artists sought visual parallels in their work. This painting derives from a 1623 poem by Giovanni Battista Marino. The painter remains unknown, although the sophisticated literary reference, dramatic use of light, and vivid use of color demonstrate the artist’s awareness of trends converging in Naples in the mid 1600s.

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