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Venus and Adonis,

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Venus and Adonis

“Venus and Adonis,” (after Titian, or his brother Orazio Vecellio), engraving,
Sir Robert Strange, Naples, 1762-79.

The Artist

Sir Robert Strange (1721-1792) was a Scottish nobleman and line-engraver who made a successful career engraving copies of Italian Old Masters. In 1760 he went to Italy where he gained membership in art academies in Rome, Florence, Bologna, and Parma. Under the patronage Pope Clement XIII’s nephew he copied artworks in the Borghese Palace and was given an apartment in the Vatican Palace.  For about a year he traveled and improved his drawing skills by copying Italian High Renaissance and Baroque paintings. He also visited Naples, and then returned to England in 1764 and eventually was knighted in 1787.

Question: Tell me more about Sir Robert Strange’s life and trip to Italy?

Answer: http://www.nndb.com/people/173/000097879/

 or read his own journal in ebook form at

http://www.archive.org/details/memoirssirrober03denngoog

The Researcher

Angelica Rosalez majored in international business at JMU and graduated in 2010. She researched this engraving in fall 2009 and produced the following catalog entry:

 “Venus and Adonis,” (after Titian, or his brother Orazio Vecellio), engraving, Sir Robert Strange, Naples, 1762-79.  (Madison Art Collection 79.3.6)

            Robert Strange’s Venus and Adonis was engraved after one of Titian’s six paintings on the same theme. The composition most closely resembles Titian’s Venus and Adonis now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.[1] Both the painting and print depict Venus embracing Adonis before he departs for the hunt with his two dogs. Cupid is shown in the forest behind, cuddling a turtle dove, while his bow and arrows are put aside in the tree. The inscription states that it was drawn in the Royal Palace in Naples in 1762, and engraved in London, 1769. This print was probably part of Strange’s Catalogue of a Collection of Pictures …with Remarks on the Principal Painters and their Works (London, 1769) produced for a mass market of British and Scottish collectors.[2]

            Sir Robert Strange (1721-1792) was a Scottish line-engraver who made a successful career engraving copies of Italian Old Masters.[3] He first apprenticed as an engraver in Edinburgh, but postponed his artistic career to join the Jacobite army of Charles Stuart in 1745.[4] After studying in France, he returned to London in 1750. His Jacobite sympathies were a disadvantage in London society, so in 1760 he went to Italy where he gained membership in art academies in Rome, Florence, Bologna, and Parma. Under the patronage Pope Clement XIII’s nephew he copied artworks in the Borghese Palace and was given an apartment in the Vatican Palace.  For almost a year, he improved his drawing skills by copying Italian High Renaissance and Baroque paintings. He also visited Naples, and then returned to England in 1764 and eventually was knighted in 1787.

            Titian was a sixteenth century Venetian artist who painted a series of mythological subjects, called “poesie,” for King Philip II of Spain. These included the Danae, Venus and Adonis, Perseus and Andromeda, Diana and Actaeon, Diana and Callisto, The Rape of Europa and the Death of Actaeon.[5] The Venus and Adonis was originally destined for Philip II’s collection in Madrid, but because of Philip’s marriage contracted with Queen Mary Tutor of England, the Venus and Adonis was sent to London.[6] A second version of the subject was painted around 1570 for the Farnese family. The Metropolitan museum painting is related to the lost Farnese model. Titian’s studio often created variations of his most successful works. These show Adonis holding two dogs instead of three, Cupid in different positions, various expressions on Adonis’ face, and degrees of realism in the landscape. Titan’s brother, Orazio Vecellio, who was a member of the workshop, may have painted the Metropolitan Museum of Art version, according to some scholars.[7] 

The story of Venus and Adonis was written by the Roman author Ovid in his Metamorphoses.[8] His tenth book recounts how the goddess Venus took her first mortal lover Adonis. In Titian’s painting and Strange’s print Venus is trying to hold Adonis back from hunting to save his life, but Adonis breaks from her grasp. His gaze seems to acknowledge her concern for him, yet his body continues to move forward.  In Titian’s Venus and Adonis of 1554 Venus is embracing Adonis, her gaze directed towards her lover.[9] She nearly falls off her seat, but unconcerned concentrates on keeping him safe. Cupid looks curiously at the interaction of the lovers. His inaction suggests that the goddess and mortal are bound by genuine feelings, and not by his power to induce love. An illustrated version of Metamorphoses from 1557 is similar to Titian’s Venus and Adonis. (Angelica Rosalez)

 



[1] "Titian (Tiziano Vecellio): Venus and Adonis (49.7.16)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/tita/ho_49.7.16.htm (October 2006).

[2] See Stana Nenadic, “Print Collecting and Popular Culture in Eighteenth-Century Scotland,” History 82 (2002), 203-222.

[3] David Rodgers. "Strange, Robert." In Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T081726 (accessed November 20, 2009); J. Dennistoun, Memoirs of Sir Robert Strange, 2 vols. (London, 1855).

[4] The Jacobites were supporters of James II of England and his Stuart descendants, who attempted to regain the English throne after the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Jacobitism was strong in the Scottish Highlands and parts of Ireland.

[5] Ian Chilvers (ed). "Titian," in The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists. (Oxford University Press 2009) Oxford Reference Online (accessed 17 October 2009).

[6] W. R. Rearick, “Titian's Later Mythologies” Artibus et Historiae Vol. 17, No. 33 (1996), 23-67. This article examines a large group of Titian workshop variants and replicas.

[7] Rearick, “Titian’s Mythologies,” 30-40.

[8] For the text of Ovid, see http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/latin/ovid/vasal1557/0145_i2v.html.

[9] Identifies the date and style of Titian works. Full text at "Titian" The Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance. Gordon Campbell. Oxford University Press, 2003.  James Madison University.  17 October 2009  http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t175.e3497