Venus and Cupid (Primary Title)
Artemisia Gentileschi, who trained in Rome with her father, Orazio, was the leading female artist of the 17th century. She worked mainly in Rome, Florence, and Naples. In 1616, she became the first female member of Florence’s noted Academy of Painting.
Gentileschi’s work, which is marked by the strong contrasts of light and dark as well as unusual, bold compositions, was influenced both by her father’s painting style and that of his famous associate, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Her subject matter often consists of powerfully rendered portrayals of women – Judith, Susanna, Cleopatra, and Danäe, for example – dramatically depicted either as heroines or victims.
In this work, however, Gentileschi has created a sumptuous image of Venus, the Goddess of Love, asleep under a velvet hanging. Her bedcover is painted with ultramarine, an expensive pigment made from powdered lapis lazuli. Behind her, Cupid wields a peacock-feather fan to keep pests from annoying or waking her. At the left is a view of a mountainous landscape with a small circular temple, reminiscent of the one dedicated to Venus near Hadrian’s villa in Tivoli, just outside of Rome.
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