HOLBEIN, Hans the Younger
(b. 1497, Augsburg, d. 1543, London)

Venus and Amor

1524-25
Limewood, 34,6 x 26,2 cm
Kunstmuseum, Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel

Sitting in front of a green curtain and behind a low parapet, Venus, the Roman goddess of love, addresses the viewer with an open gesture and frank gaze. On her lap is the small, naked figure of Amor, who, holding love's arrow in his hand, is endeavouring to clamber on to the parapet.

It is not known who commissioned this picture, which is the earliest of Holbein's mythological paintings; it is first mentioned as being in the possession of Basilius Amerbach, who obtained it in 1578 as a present from his cousin, Franz Rechburger. In his inventory, Amerbach notes that the panels with Venus and Laïs are in fact portraits of a woman from the Offenburg family. However, even if Holbein did make use of a portrait study, he has idealized his model to the point where it can no longer be considered a true portrait.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 4 minutes):
Francesco Gasparini: The Meddlesome Cupid, aria