Any serious (or indeed frivolous) depiction of love in the classical tradition normally requires the presence of Venus, often in the company of her son Cupid. While Venus is nobly chaste, and also embodies the supreme virtue of Peace, Cupid is altogether naughtier. After all, he is the god of desire, attraction and affection, and has endured longer than Venus in Valentine imagery.
Odoardo Fialetti (1573–1638), a Venice-based printmaker and painter, depicts Venus holding Cupid’s quiver. She appears to speak to him as he shapes his bow. This is one of a series called <em>Scherzi d’Amore</em> (1617), probably best translated as ‘trifles’ or ‘jests’ of love. In another scene she spanks him, but Te Papa’s etching is altogether subtler. Is she about to confiscate the quiver, possibly in revenge for him having made her fall in love with Adonis? Or is she telling him that he will need to fill the empty quiver with arrows in order to be effective on affections?
This etching is Plate 13, the last in the series of etchings <em>Scherzi d'amore </em>(Games of love), which also includes two title pages.
Dr Mark Stocker Curator, Historical International Art June 2017