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Venus Disarming Cupid

Artist: Parmigianino
(Parma, 1503 – Casalmaggiore, 1540)

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

The splendid drawing is one of the most elaborate versions of the theme that preoccupied the painter for a long time and was popular in the sixteenth century. According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses Cupid accidentally wounded, with his arrow, his mother Venus, who then fell in love with the mighty but mortal hunter Adonis. Consequently, the goddess of love came to experience all the torments of consuming passion. The furious Venus therefore disarms her son. More than half a dozen surviving studies testify that Parmigianino initially envisaged a highly dynamic composition. The goddess provides a masterful example of the figura serpentinata, an exaggerated and elegant twisted pose, which was beloved of Mannerist and Baroque artists. The pink prepared paper, the wash rich in tones and the painterly use of body colour are evocative of chiaroscuro woodcuts (colour woodcut printed from different woodblocks). Between 1527 and 1530, when the drawings were made, Parmigianino was working with the woodcutter Antonio da Trento, and so the Budapest sheet was possibly intended for woodcuts, which was probably never realized.

Text: © Zoltán Kárpáti, 2015