Venus, Adonis and Cupid is one of the most famous works of the Renaissance painter Anibale Carracci;the work has been held in great esteem since the mid-20th century for representing, like no other, the differences that the different pictorial schools exerted on the artist throughout his career.
Anibale Carracci (1560 – 16009) is one of the most renowned artists of Renaissance painting. Born in Bologna, it is most likely that he was trained in his family workshop since he came from a long line of artists. Together with his brother and his cousin, they proposed a new artistic conception far removed from the realism and drama radiating from Caravaggio's canvases to return to the classic drawing of the Quattrocento and combine it with the colors of the Venetian masters.
In this sense Anibale Carracci traveled throughout Italy to study the works of the great Italian masters and especially the paintings of Titian. It was precisely on one of these trips that Anibale came across a work similar to the one we are dealing with here and decided to make his own version under the title Venus, Adonis and Cupid. It seems that the canvas owned by an aristocrat, Gian Francesco Serra di Cassano and after his death was sold to the Viceroy of Spain Gaspar de Bracamonte Guzmán by order of the Spanish monarch Philip IV.
This is an oil on canvas painted at the end of the 16th century, inAround the year 1590, in a medium and horizontal format with measures of two and a half meters wide and two meters high. The work represents a mythological theme, it is an episode of Ovid's Metamorphoses that was very popular during the time among great authors such as Titian or Veronese.
The work depicts the encounter between Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and the hunter Adonis. The goddess was accidentally hit by one of the golden arrows of her son Cupid of hers that cause an unstoppable passion and infatuation. The goddess tries to seduce the hunter but he hardly pays attention to her because her only interest is in the hunt. The story ends tragically when Adonis is wounded by a wild boar and loses his life. Venus, to remember her love, grows a flower as beautiful as her beloved but short-lived, the water lily.
In a close-up, Venus turns naked towards Adonis in a powerful diagonal with her body while Cupid looks at the viewerand points to the love scene. Adonis, on the other hand, appears represented together with his dogs, interrupted by the goddess to whom he barely pays attention. The scene takes place in a natural landscape reminiscent of Titian's compositions. The light and color refer to the influence of the great Venetian masters, however the careful composition and classicist forms remind us of the geniuses of the Renaissance such as Raphael or Michelangelo. In this way, the artist Anibale Carracci has managed to synthesize in a single work all the trends of previous painting.