Venus and Adonis
59 cm x 71.2 cm (23 1/4 in. x 28 1/16 in.)
(Rome, Italy, 1623 - 1694, Rome, Italy)
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Suida-Manning Collection, 2017
Ovid’s "Metamorphoses" tells the tragic love story of Venus and Adonis. The goddess was so enamored of the handsome hunter that she even dressed herself like a huntress and wandered in the woods with him. But their love affair came to an abrupt end, when a boar killed Adonis. He had disregarded Venus’ warning about ferocious animals. Mourning her lover’s death, the goddess turned his blood into the anemone flower.
Filippo Lauri enhances the drama of the moment when Venus falls in love with Adonis. Cupid’s arrow inflames her with passion for Adonis, who is lying under a myrtle tree. (The tree evokes his birth from the myrtle into which his mother Myrrha transformed.) His spear and hunting dogs prefigure the confrontation with the boar, and his reclining pose foreshadows his death. In the background is the swan-drawn chariot that Venus would drive to rush back to the dying youth. By combining these visual clues from different parts of the narrative, the artist reminds the viewer of the entire story.