Description of this painting
The tales from Ovid's Metamorphoses inspired Titian to paint what he called poetry, or poetry in painting.
The goddess Venus tries to stop her lover Adonis from going hunting. She clings to him, imploring him not to go, but Adonis looks at her impassively. His dogs tug at their leashes, echoing his impatience, as detailed in the tragic love story found in Ovid's The Metamorphoses. Cupid sleeps in the background, a symbol of Adonis's resistance to the pleas of Venus, since his ineffective arrows hang uselessly from a tree. The story ends tragically; During the hunt, the deadly Adonis is fatally gored by a boar.
Titian's loose, energetic brushstrokes give the painting a sense of spontaneity and movement. In some areas, such as Adonis's arm, the artist even painted with his finger. The dynamism of the composition arises from the torsion caused by the awkward pose of Venus, inspired by an ancient sculptural relief. Titian used rich colors, brilliant reflections, and lush scenery to create the painting's evocative and poignant mood.
The mood of sensuality, conveyed by the beautiful representation of Venus, seen from behind, enhances the viewer's sense of the tragic end of this story, expressed through their exchanged glances and the frightened Cupid.
Titian's workshop made multiple versions of this composition, but this one is of exceptional quality and was painted by Titian himself.
Venus and Adonis was one of the most successful designs of Titian's later career. At least 30 versions are known to have been executed by the painter and his workshop, as well as independently by assistants and copyists during the painter's lifetime and immediately after, and the evolution of the composition over the years was very complex.
Technical examination of the work's underlying paint layers has revealed compositional changes that suggest the painting may have begun in the 1540s.
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