The goddess Venus tries to restrain her lover Adonis from going off to the hunt. She clings to him, imploring him not to go, but Adonis looks down at her impassively. His dogs strain at their leashes, echoing his impatience, as detailed in the tragic love story found in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Cupid sleeps in the background, a symbol of Adonis's resistance to Venus's entreaties, since his ineffective arrows hang uselessly in a tree. The story ends tragically; during the hunt, the mortal Adonis is fatally gored by a wild boar.
Titian's loose, energetic brushstrokes give the painting a sense of spontaneity and movement. In some areas, as in Adonis’s arm, the artist even painted with his finger. The composition's dynamism springs from the torsion caused by Venus's awkward pose, which was inspired by an ancient sculptural relief. Titian used rich colors, shimmering highlights, and a lush landscape to create the painting's evocative, poignant mood.