Venus and Cupid by Lorenzo Lotto is definitely one of the most unusual paintings when viewed through 21st century eyes. The painting depicts Venus lying on her left side, naked, and Cupid standing about a foot behind her. Inspired by ancient marriage poems, known as “epithalamia,” the painting was apparently painted to celebrate a wedding and Venus’s body type and facial features were taken from that of the bride to be’s. The painter included a few items in the picture that relate to Venus and to the sacrament of marriage. On Venus’s head is a crown (considered a “crown” in those times but we call it a tiara today [it’s much smaller]) with a veil cascading down the back. Rose petals line her sexual attributes and she holds up a wreath made of ivy and myrtle1, a symbol of fidelity and was worn by the bride. Behind Venus’s head, a conch shell dangles and finally, placed randomly around the two is a coiling serpent, a rod, roses, and an incense burner. Cupid, as he stands behind his mother, also has his right hand holding up the wreath. On his head is a wreath of his own made of only myrtle , and his angel wings are opened and spread pulling the viewer into his angelic glow. His right hand holds his genitals as he aims his urine through the wreath (held by both him and Venus) and onto Venus’s lap.
It was hard to understand exactly what was going on in this painting at first. It took me a couple of glances to put together the little I actually understood, the rest I got from hours of research and bewilderment. Venus, as she sits on the stain blue cloth, is wearing a cloth around her midriff. This cloth, I found, is called a diaphanous stophein, which is the times of Lotto, was worn by new brides. The tiara she wears on her head with the white veil draped down her back is symbolizing a practice that continues today. A woman’s wedding day is her day to be a princess and the veil symbolizes the innocence of a woman to be married. The brown conch shell hanging above...
Bibliography: 1. Bentley, D.M.R. ""Of Venus and of Cupid, -- Strange Old Tales" in the Work of D. G. Rossetti." Victorian Review 34.2 (Fall 2008): 83-102. Print.
2. Anonymous. "WTF Art History: Cupid Peeing on Venus." WTF Art History: Cupid Peeing on Venus. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2013.
3. Humfrey, Peter, and Lorenzo Lotto. Lorenzo Lotto. New Haven: Yale UP, 1997. Print.
4. Metropolitan Museum of Art
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