Circle of Giovanni Bellini (Italian, Venice, active by 1459–died 1516 Venice) ca. 1430–1516
late 15th century
Pen and brown ink, over traces of black chalk.
11 1/8 x 15 9/16 in. (28.3 x 39.6 cm)
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
Not on view
Although the northern Italian origin of this drawing has never been disputed, the question of its authorship remains open. The composition and the rendering of landscape are reminiscent of Giovanni Bellini and Andrea Mantegna, while the figures of Venus and Cupid recall Bartolomeo Vivarini. At the top of a hill, Venus sits surrounded by four attendants and embraces her son, Cupid. Below her, Vulcan builds a fence; his blacksmith tools occupy the entrance to his cave. The esoteric subject of this allegory of marital love may imply the influence of literary sources and relate to an epithalamium, a type of ancient wedding poem revived by Humanist scholars in the fifteenth century. This large sheet may have been a design for a painted scene, perhaps commissioned on the occasion of a marriage.
Marking: Annotated on the old mat in pencil in a modern hand: Ferrarese School. Venus with Cupid attended by the Hours on a mount surrounded by a palisade. / c.p. 9.7. Hill. See of Vasari Society by whom it has been reproduced.
Jan Pietersz. Zoomer, Amsterdam (Lugt 1511); private collection, Italy (?) (Lugt Suppl. 2798); John Skippe, the Upper Hall, Ledbury, England (see Lugt 1529a-b); his sister, Penelope Skippe, married in 1774 to James Martin, Overbury Court, Worcestershire; James Martin's son, Old Colwall, Malvern; by descent through his mother to Edward Holland; his sister, Mrs. A.C. Rayner-Wood; his nephew, Edward Holland-Martin; Skippe sale, 1958, lot 81, pl. 12. Acquired by Robert Lehman in 1958.