This painting appears to depict the birth of Cupid, with attendants ministering to his mother, Venus. The lively, decorative composition is typical of French artists working in the style developed by the Italians at the château de Fontainebleau, such as Rosso Fiorentino of Florence and Primaticcio and Niccolo dell Abate of Bologna. The frame is sixteenth-century Italian.
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Title:The Birth of Cupid
Artist:Master of Flora (Italian, Fontainebleau, second half 16th century)
Medium:Oil on wood
Dimensions:Overall 42 1/2 x 51 3/8 in. (108 x 130.5 cm), including added strip of 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm) at top
Credit Line:Rogers Fund, 1941
Prince Antonin Juritzky, also known as Alfred Juritzky-Warberg, Vienna or Schloss Gablitz, near Vienna (in 1923); [Nicholas A. Karger, until 193(?); sold to Kleinberger]; [Kleinberger, Paris and New York, until 1934; sold to Wildenstein]; [Wildenstein, New York, 1934–41; sold to The Met]
Paris. Wildenstein Galleries. "École de Fontainebleau," 1939, no. 8 (as "Venus and Cupid," by a French assistant of Rosso, about 1540).
New York. Wildenstein Galleries. "The School of Fontainebleau," 1940, no. 1 (as "Venus and Cupid," by Primaticcio).
Pittsburgh. Carnegie Institute. "French Painting: 1100–1900," October 18–December 2, 1951, no. 42.
Lili Fröhlich-Bum. "Ein unbekanntes Bild von Primaticcio." Belvedere 12 (1923), pp. 205–9, ill., publishes this painting as Venus and Cupid with Attendants, in a private collection, Vienna; attributes it to Primaticcio, comparing it with "The Concert" (Louvre, Paris), traditionally ascribed to him.
W. Friedlaender inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 27, Leipzig, 1933, p. 403, questions Frölich-Bum's [Ref. 1923] attribution of this picture to Primaticcio, noting that "The Concert" is considered by the Louvre to be a copy after Primaticcio.
Jean Robiquet. La femme dans la peinture française, XVe–XXe siècle. Paris, 1938, ill. opp. p. 30 (color), as School of Fontainebleau.
René Huyghe. Beaux-arts (November 15, 1939), pp. 12–13, ill. [see Ref. Sterling 1955].
Henri Baderou. L'école de Fontainebleau. Paris, 1940, colorpl. 8, as "Venus? L'Amour, des suivantes," from the School of Fontainebleau, workshop of Primaticcio, about 1545, of Italian design but French execution.
Alfred M. Frankfurter. "The American Debut of a Great School of Painting: The Masters of Fontainebleau." Art News 39 (November 2, 1940), p. 8, ill. (color).
Fontainebleau Poses Question of Influences (November 15, 1940), p. 10.
Harry B. Wehle. "A Painting of the Fontainebleau School." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (February 1942), pp. 27–30, ill. (overall and detail on front cover), identifies the subject as the Birth of Cupid on the basis of classical and 16th-century Italian and French descriptions of Venus and the infancy of Cupid; rejects the attribution to Primaticcio, calling it the work of a younger artist working probably between 1560 and 1580, "almost surely a Frenchman"; compares it to the so-called "Allegory on the Birth of a Son of Henry II," a Fontainebleau school picture at Sanssouci, Potsdam, and suggests that it might be an allegory on the birth of a prince, possibly a son of Charles IX by his mistress, Marie Touchet.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 38.
Charles Sterling. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. Vol. 1, XV–XVIII Centuries. Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 47–49, ill., notes that the artist was influenced primarily by Rosso, but also by Primaticcio; dates the painting after 1540, but before 1560, when Rosso's influence was replaced by that of Niccolò dell'Abatte; discusses the picture's physical history [see Notes].
[Sterling, Charles] inLe triomphe du maniérisme européen. Exh. cat., Rijksmuseum. Amsterdam, 1955, pp. 77–78 [the author is identified in Ref. Béguin 1961, p. 301 n. 3].
Sylvie Béguin. Fontainebleau: Le maniérisme à la cour de France. Paris, 1960, pp. 73–75, 77, ill., mentions this picture among works attributed to the Master of Flora, calling it the artist's masterpiece; tentatively identifies him as Ruggiero de Ruggieri, a collaborator of Primaticcio and Niccolò dell'Abatte, active in Fontainebleau between 1557 and 1597.
Sylvie Béguin. "Le "Maître de Flore" de l'école de Fontainebleau." Art de France no. 1 (1961), pp. 301, 308, ill. (color).
Sylvie Béguin. "La Charité: Un tableau de l'École de Fontainebleau récemment entré au Louvre." L'Oeil nos. 210–11 (June–July 1972), p. 80, fig. 14.
Janet S. Byrne. "Du Cerceau Drawings." Master Drawings 15, no. 2 (1977), pp. 153–54, fig. 16, dates this panel about 1540–60 and finds the vase carried by one of the Four Hours in the center background identical to one designed by Jacques Androuet du Cerceau (fig. 11) and engraved by Agostino Veneziano (fig. 12); notes that the vase held by one of the Hours at the far right is close to a 1543 engraving by Enea Vico (fig. 3) after the antique.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 252, 258, fig. 459 (color).
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 357, ill.
Ekkehard Mai et al. inFaszination Venus: Bilder einer Göttin von Cranach bis Cabanel. Ed. Ekkehard Mai with the assistance of Ursula Weber-Woelk. Exh. cat., Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. Cologne, 2000, pp. 98, 376, ill.
Ian Wardropper. "The Flowering of the French Renaissance." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 62 (Summer 2004), pp. 18–19, ill. (color).
When this picture was illustrated by Fröhlich-Bum in 1923, the panel had been slightly cut at the top and the three small figures of the Graces painted out. At some point after this the original figures of the Graces were uncovered, and a strip of 3 1/2 inches was added to the top of the panel; the head of the central Grace is thus a recent invention (see Sterling 1955).
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