Peter Paul Rubens, Venus and Adonis, ca. 1630s

PeterPaulRubens
Peter Paul Rubens, Venus and Adonis, ca. 1630s, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, New York 
Peter Paul Rubens, born on June 28th, 1577, in Siegen, Germany! Perhaps one of the most prolific of Baroque painters, Rubens was not only a successful artist who ran a large studio in Antwerp, but was also knighted, not ones but twice, by both Phillip IV of Spain and Charles I of England. In addition to his painting, Rubens was also a classically taught humanist scholar, a Renaissance school of thought that rejected the utilitarian way of educating, and sought to create a nation capable of expression itself eloquently within the society. This meant studying moral philosophy, humanities, poetry, grammar, rhetoric and history. It comes as no surprise then that Rubens himself was known for his history paintings, as well as mythological depictions and landscapes. In this work, titled Venus and Adonis, executed sometime in the mid 1630s, Rubens portrays the myth of an unrequited love of Venus for the beautiful, yet reckless Adonis, as told by Ovid, a Roman English speaking poet, who was active between 43BCD-17CE. As the myth goes, Adonis, son of Myrrha, who upon having intercourse with her father was turned into a myrrh tree, and Cinyras, Myrrha’s father as well as Adonis’, was born out of tree his mother was turned into. Adonis grew up to be the most handsome man in the world, so much so, that Venus, the goddess of love, beauty, prosperity, fertility, victory, desire, and ahm, sex, fell in love with him. This is believed to have happened as while Venus’s son Cupid bent down to kiss his mother, he accidentally struck her with one of his arrows. This can observed in this painting, as Rubens included Cupid, hugging Adonis’s leg, with his bow and satchel of arrows to the right of him, underneath his mother’s legs. As Adonis’s favorite thing was to hunt, Venus would accompany him into the forest dressed in hunting clothes, however, she would warn Adonis to not hunt the big and dangerous animals, only the smaller and nonthreatening ones. After punishing Hippomenes for not honoring her after she helped him win a race with Atalanta, which consequently led to them becoming husband and wife, Venus tricked them into angering Cybele, who in turn transformed the two into lions. After Venus’ work was done, she swiftly flew away, abandoning Adonis and leaving him to his own devises. Adonis wasted no time, and went straight into the woods to hunt a boar. As he speared the animal, the boar did not die, but instead turned on Adonis and after running him down gored him into the groin, killing him. Pictured here is Peter Paul Rubens, Venus and Adonis, ca. 1630s, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, New York 
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