Venus adorned by the graces

(1594-1595; Washington, National Gallery)
   Painted by Annibale Carracci, this work betrays his interest in Venetian art as Venus is the nude reclining type favored by Venetian masters such as Giorgione and Titian. She is as voluptuous as her Venetian counterparts, around her the usual props, including the curtain behind her, the luscious landscape, and the pudgy putti. The scene derives from Homer's Odyssey when Mars and Venus are caught by Vulcan, her consort, in an act of infidelity. Venus retires to Cythera, her sacred island, where she is bathed and adorned by the Graces while she awaits Vulcan's return from collecting the adulterer's fee from Mars, the scene shown in the background. The painting is thought to have been commissioned on the occasion of a wedding celebration as denoted by certain elements within the work. Venus is the goddess of love, Mars and Vulcan are symbols of passion and generative heat, and Bacchus, shown as a statue on a fountain in the background, is a symbol of fertility. The details of the commission are unknown, though by 1638, the painting was in the possession of the Bolognese Count Alessandro Tanari.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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