Venus and Adonis by Titian Vecellio

Venus and Adonis by Titian Vecellio

The plot for the picture ordered by the Spanish King Philip II, Titian chose the tragic love story of Venus and Adonis. He finished this painting in 1554, when his patron was in London on the occasion of his wedding with Maria I Tudor, Queen of England. The picture was not very harmonious with the wedding celebrations, but it fully corresponded to the king’s predilection for a naked female body.

Earlier, Titian sent Philip a picture depicting a naked Danai full face. In a letter to the king, he explained that, by hanging both pictures side by side, he can enjoy the beauty of the female body in different angles. Titian called this picture a poem: the plot is taken from mythology, but poetically processed. He portrayed a naked Venus clinging to a young hunter who does not pay attention to her pleas and is ready to go to the hunt at dawn.

Cupid sleeps under a tree, while with the sun’s rays comes a fateful day. Adonis. When Mirta deceived her father into joining incest, the gods turned her into a tree to protect him from his anger. The time passed, the tree trunk split, and Adonis was born.

Struck with Cupid’s arrow, Venus fell madly in love with a beautiful young man. She knew the prophecy that Adonis would be killed on the hunt, and tried to prevent this misfortune, but Adonis was adamant in his intention to go hunting, where he was killed by a wild boar. After the death of Adonis, roses grew on the spot of his blood, and anemones from Venus’ tears.

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