TIZIANO Vecellio
(b. 1490, Pieve di Cadore, d. 1576, Venezia)

Venus and Adonis

Oil on canvas, 187 x 134 cm
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome

Aside from citations in various inventories, the complicated history of this picture is also traceable through a letter written by F Mueller, the correspondent in Italy for the court of Bavaria. According to Mueller, the work was originally painted for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who intended it for his picture gallery in Prague. It was then carried to Sweden as booty by King Gustavus Adolfus, and passed by heredity into the collection of Queen Christina of Sweden. After her abdication in 1654, she brought it with her to Rome where it decorated her palace there. With Christina's death in 1689, the picture passed to her heir Pompeo Azzolino and was later acquired from him by Livio Odescalchi, who purchased a large part of Christina's collection. It then passed successively to the French regent Phillipe d'Orleans, who took it to Paris, and to Czar Paul I of Russia, who took it to Saint Petersburg. When he died, the painting was acquired by the Venetian merchant Pietro Concolo, who took it back to Venice. There, the work was bought by Capparoni, Giovanni Torlonia's agent for the acquisition of artworks.

Mentioned as a work of Titian in all the inventories, beginning with that of Christina of Sweden, the painting is one of the artist's several versions of the evidently popular subject. The acknowledged prototype is the example at the Museo del Prado in Madrid, which depicts Adonis without the red hunter's cap.

Some scholars considered the Palazzo Barberini painting a copy with variants; while others regarded it as an autograph replica.