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The Feast of Venus

Peter Paul Rubens1636/1637

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

During his long stay in Italy (1600–1609) Rubens copied several paintings by Titian, including his Feast of Venus (Madrid, Museo del Prado) of ca. 1519, a work commissioned by Alfonso d’Este. The source of Titian’s painting was Flavius Philostratus the Younger’s Eikones, in which the ancient writer described 64 pictures of an imaginary (?) Neapolitan gallery, including the Gods of Love by an anonymous painter. Twenty years after his study of the Italian model, Rubens began a painting on the same subject but expanded the repertoire of figures in his dynamic composition. Venus, the goddess of love, is the centre of attention. The posture of her arms is in keeping with the classical type of the Venus Pudica, which is characterised by its ambivalence: bashful concealment can also become its opposite – the effect on the viewer remains open. Elevated to monumental status, Venus is surrounded by numerous cupids, dancing and caressing each other and creating an appropriate setting for the feast in the tree-tops above her. Four women devote themselves to the marble cult figure: Venus is being washed, the smell of incense fills the summery air, and, finally, a precious mirror is raised to the goddess. The group around Bacchus, the god of wine, on the left in the foreground as well as the procession of Satyrs and Maenads on the right at the back are embellishments by Rubens. In addition, the Flemish painter documented for educated contemporary viewers his knowledge of the latest results of archaeological research: the model for the round temple depicted on the left in the back and the find of a classical three-legged pot – which Rubens uses for the incense sacrifice – became known only a short time before the painting was created. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010

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Details

  • Title: The Feast of Venus
  • Creator: Peter Paul Rubens
  • Date Created: 1636/1637
  • Location Created: Antwerp, Belgium
  • Style: Flemish Baroque
  • Provenance: 1685 in the imperial Collections in Prague; 1733 in Vienna
  • Place Part Of: Belgium
  • Physical Dimensions: w3500 x h2170 cm
  • Inventory Number: GG 684
  • Artist Biography: International diplomat, savvy businessman, devout Catholic, fluent in six languages, an intellectual who counted Europe's finest scholars among his friends, Peter Paul Rubens was always first a painter. Few artists have been capable of transforming such a vast variety of influences into a style utterly new and original. After study with local Antwerp painters, Rubens began finding his style in Italy, copying works from antiquity, Renaissance masters such as Michelangelo and Titian, and contemporaries like Annibale Carracci and Caravaggio. He worked principally in Rome and Genoa, where Giulio Romano's frescoes influenced him greatly. Returning to Antwerp, Rubens became court painter to the Spanish Viceroys, eventually receiving commissions from across Europe and England. Rubens's energetic Baroque style blends his northern European sense of realism with the grandeur and monumentality he saw in Italian art. His characteristic free, expressive technique also captured joie de vivre. From his workshop, with its many assistants, came quantities of book illustrations, tapestry designs, festival decorations, and paintings on every subject, which his engravers reproduced. He maintained control of the quality, while charging patrons according to the extent of his involvement on a picture. Frans Snyders, Jacob Jordaens, and Anthony van Dyck each assisted him.Rubens's impact was immediate, international, and long lasting. The works of Thomas Gainsborough and Eugène Delacroix, among others, testify to his posthumous influence. ©J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Canvas

Additional Items

The Feast of Venus (Supplemental)

The Feast of Venus (Supplemental)

The Feast of Venus (Supplemental)

The Feast of Venus (Supplemental)

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