Venus and Cupid

Model attributed to Tiziano Aspetti Italian

Not on view

The nude woman stands on a dolphin. In front of her feet lies a small sleeping Cupid, identifying her as Venus, goddess of love, while the dolphin defines her as Venus Marina, an incarnation of the goddess as protectress of seafaring: as such, she was especially popular in Venice. She stands firmly on her left leg, while the right is placed in a relaxed pose on the dolphin’s head, whose twisting tail caresses the backs of her legs. With her upraised left hand she holds a shawl-like drapery that falls from her left shoulder across her back, in order to be caught in her right hand. The entire figure leans in a graceful curve toward the side of the relaxed leg, while the head is turned sharply opposite. The hair is gathered in an Apollo-like bow, and a long curl falls upon her right shoulder.

This statuette is often found as the crowning figure of an andiron, usually paired with a Mars. Both figures were invented by Tiziano Aspetti, the best casts being in the Accademia Carrara, Bergamo, and the Frick, respectively (p. 00, fig. 62a).[1] In these superb examples, the figures are placed on elaborate, integrally cast socles consisting of a polygonal, curved architectural pedestal decorated with sea monsters and escutcheons. In both cases, figure and socle are conceived as a unit, ingeniously linked by the wavy water that flows from the mouth of the dolphin at Venus’s feet and the overhanging cuirass on which Mars stands. The couple, together with their elaborate socles, survived in another good cast that nevertheless does not reach the quality of the originals.[2] In other known versions, the pedestals have been cut off, thus fragmenting the waves and the cuirass rather brutally. This was done because the two figures turned out to be ideal finials for andirons, while their pedestals made not only the reproduction but above all the mounting on such firedogs difficult.[3] As an andiron figure, the graceful Venus (as much as her companion Mars) must have enjoyed great popularity, as is attested by the many existing casts, which are, however, mostly of very low quality.[4] Our version lacks any subtlety in the surface treatment and appears to be “cast not from a wax model but from an earlier finished bronze.”[5] It is likely a very late cast, probably from the nineteenth century.

(For key to shortened references see bibliography in Allen, Italian Renaissance and Baroque Bronzes in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. NY: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2022.)

1. See Kryza-Gersch 2001.
2. London 1961, cat. 164; auctioned at Sotheby’s, New York, January 10, 1995, lot 25, then sold again at Sotheby’s, New York, January 27, 2016, lot 14. See also Kryza-Gersch 2001, pp. 150–51.
3. For a photograph of andirons surmounted by Mars and Venus with their entire pedestal, see Kryza-Gersch 2001, fig. 19. While the current location of these curious andirons is unknown, the photograph demonstrates how unsuitable the pedestals are for such a context. 4. Bode-Museum (Krahn 2003, pp. 152–56, cat. 38); National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (Pope-Hennessy 1965, pp. 125–26, no. 465); Österreichisches Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna (Weihrauch 1967, pp. 158–59); Museo Correr and Ca’ d’Oro, Venice (Kryza-Gersch 2001, p. 156 n. 33); C. S. Wadsworth Trust Collection, Parke-Bernet, New York, December 11, 1948, lot 33; Collection D. David-Weill, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 1971, lot 99; Christie’s, New York, January 14, 1992, lot 132; Drouot-Richelieu, Paris, June 25, 1993, lot 264; Sotheby’s, London, July 9, 2004, lot 68; Sotheby’s, New York, December 3, 2014, lot 62.
5. R. Stone/TR, July 15, 2009.

Venus and Cupid, Model attributed to Tiziano Aspetti (Italian, 1565–1607), Bronze, on marble base, Italian, Venice

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.