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Sine Cerere et Libero friget Venus (Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus Would Freeze)

c. 1600-1603
Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch (active Haarlem), 1558–1617)

This remarkable painting is actually a gigantic "pen work," an ink-on-canvas drawing transfigured by rosy touches of oil paint. The source of illumination in the painting—Cupid's torch—is also the focal point of the narrative. The flame rouses Venus, the goddess of Love, from a deep slumber. Two satyrs offer her grapes and fruits of the harvest, illustrating the painting's title theme: without food and wine, love cannot flourish. This ancient Roman theme was extremely popular in Holland at the turn of the seventeenth century.

This painting's exalted pedigree reflects its importance. It was in several royal collections, including those of Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor who had his court at Prague through the early years of the seventeenth century; Queen Christina of Sweden, whose troops looted Prague in 1636 and absconded with innumerable art treasures; and Charles II of England, where it remained until at least 1720.

Object Details

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