CRANACH, Lucas the Elder
(b. 1472, Kronach, d. 1553, Weimar)

Venus and Cupid with a Honeycomb

c. 1531
Oil and tempera on red beechwood, 169 x 67 cm
Galleria Borghese, Rome

Around 1525, Cranach (a leading painter of the German Renaissance, who had trained in Flemish studios) painted a Venus draped in a transparent veil gazing directly at the spectator, whose refined flowing lines are far-removed from the style of ancient statues. The fine brushwork captures every wrinkle in the bark of the tree and every feather in the wings. Cranach decided to accompany his nude figure with a moralizing couplet by the Humanist Chelidonius which reminds us that 'voluptas' is transitory and accompanied by pain, as the little Cupid realizes when he tastes the honeycomb with its stinging bees.

The date 1531 inscribed on the painting is not thought to be original and it is believed that it has actually been executed around 1525.

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