MICHELI, Parrasio
(b. ca. 1516, Venezia, d. 1578, Venezia)

The Lute-playing Venus with Cupid

after 1550
Oil on canvas, 110 x 97 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

Parrasio Micheli (or Michieli) was Titian's pupil who later followed the style of Paolo Veronese. This work of him is an outstanding manifestation of contemporary thinking concerning the close connection between music and love.

The ecstatic-looking young woman in the picture accompanies herself on the lute. Her identity as the goddess of love is obvious. Her clothes revealing her breasts and shoulder refer to sensuality, the pearls around her neck and wrists and in her ears remind the observer that she, too, was born of the sea, and finally, her child, the blonde Cupid holds the opened sheet music for her and garlands her arm with a laurel wreath.

Venus's instrument is a well-formed lute with a beautiful rosette but with only seven strings, instead of the eleven to thirteen strings which were usual in the sixteenth century. The painter accurately observed the playful hand position of the lutenists.

Elegance, charm and genteel eroticism characterize this late Renaissance piece of Venetian art. Its contemporary success is proven by the fact that several copies and variants of it exist.

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