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Venus Disarming Cupid

Artist: Parmigianino
(Parma 1503 – 1540 Casalmaggiore)

Date: ca. 1527–1530
Medium: pen, wash, ink, white heightening, black chalk on prepared paper
Dimensions: 188 × 143 mm
Classification: drawing
Inventory Number: 1890
Department: Prints and Drawings

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Venus Disarming Cupid

Although during his brief two-decade career Parmigianino painted very little, few of his contemporaries had so marked an influence as he did. His popularity was largely due to the fact that his tastefully elegant style reflected with self-evident unaffectedness the ideal of beauty shared by the young generation of Mannerists who followed Raphael. Parmigianino liked to draw, and produced many drawings: more than one thousand of his sketches survive, and one of the finest of these is Venus Disarming Cupid.
In the Metamorphoses Ovid tells of how Cupid once wounded his own mother, Venus, with an arrow, and she fell in love with the athletic but mortal hunter, Adonis. Thus the goddess of love came to know all the anguish of consuming passion. On this finely detailed Budapest sheet Venus is shown plucking away the unguarded bow from the child. The goddess is a masterful example of the figura serpentinata beloved of Mannerist and Baroque artists, a figure in unnatural, calculated elegant serpentine twists.
We do not know Parmigianino's purpose in making the drawing, but the coloured ground of the paper, the richly toned wash and the marked whitewash are akin to the preparatory drawings for his woodcuts. Though no contemporary woodcut version is known of, the Budapest drawing may be one of those Parmigianino made for the woodcutter Antonio da Trento in Bologna.

Zoltán Kárpáti