(b. 1682, Napoli, d. 1752, Madrid)

Venus and Adonis

c. 1740
Oil on canvas, 45 x 75 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Born in Naples but trained as an artist in Venice, Jacopo Amigoni soon began working in the Rococo style. Like Sebastiano Ricci and Pellegrino he often left Venice to work as one of Europe's foremost cosmopolitan artists, fixing the evanescent rather fragile delicacy of his style in great frescoes and paintings of historical subjects both profane and sacred. Charmingly Rococo in taste are the small canvases too, usually with some mythological or courtly subject. A typical example of this type is the painting of 'Venus and Adonis', executed with arcadian grace in the sharpness of the composition and the clarity and softness of the colours soaked in a jewelled and diaphanous luminosity.

The story of Venus and Adonis, which has attracted not only artists but poets, including Shakespeare, tells that Adonis was the offspring of the incestuous union of King Cinyras of Paphos, in Cyprus, with his daughter Myrrha. His beauty was a byword. Venus conceived a helpless passion for him as a result of a chance graze she received from Cupid's arrow (Met. 10:524-559). One day while out hunting Adonis was slain by a wild boar, an accident Venus had always dreaded (Met. 10:708-739). Hearing his dying groans as she flew overhead in her chariot, she came down to aid him but was too late. In the place where the earth was stained with Adonis' blood, anemones sprouted. Artists usually depict two scenes, Amigoni painted both.

The first scene is shown on this picture. Adonis, arrow (spear in other versions) in hand and hunting dog (or dogs) straining at the leash, is impatient to be off, while Venus imploringly tries to hold him back.