Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time

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Bronzino's Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time (c. mid 1540's) is an astounding painting which includes intricate symbolism.# The painting has provoked much scholarly controversy and, to this day no one art historian can agree on what the overall idea of the painting is.#

One source says that Bronzino was commissioned for this work not only as a demonstration of painterly excellence, but as a demonstration of Florentine intellectual cleverness, necessary both for the invention of the imagery and for its unraveling.# This source helps to understand why there is so much unknown about the image. Bronzino painted it with the intent of having very complex imagery that would have taken a scholar to unravel its meaning. Which may be the reason for all the controversy surrounding the painting currently.

There are only a few things that all art historians do seem to agree upon Venus and Cupid, the two central figures of the painting, are one example of this. An already older-than-childish Cupid rubs himself against his mother Venus, kisses her on the mouth, and fondles her breast.# The image of Venus has been identified by the doves on the right side proper which bill and coo at her feet.# Venus has also been identified by the golden orb she holds in her left hand which represents the golden apple given to her by Paris when he judged her more beautiful than Juno and Minerva.# Cupid is identified by his bow and arrow which represent his power to love and disarm even the strongest person and by the honeycomb in the image which represents the beauty and sweetness of love.#

The only other image that is clearly identified is the bald and winged Time or Chronos, right side proper, who is identified by the hourglass perched on his back. Father Time draws back a curtain to unveil a scene of incipient incest between, Cupid and his mother Venus.# A second figure assisting Time in reviling Cupid and Venus has not been clearly been identified but is thought to be either Truth...
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