Venus, from a set of six pagan divinities with grotesques on black grounds

Etienne Delaune French

Not on view

Engraving, part of a set of six representations of pagan divinities with grotesque motifs on black grounds, created by Étienne Delaune before 1573. This print represents Venus, surrounded by a variety of motifs that allude to the fire of carnal love, thus also representing luxury. Venus, in the company of a cupid, stands under a sort of gantry made up of interlacing laurel branches. She is nude, her long, wavy hair undone, holding a flaming torch (her usual attribute) on her left hand. The cupid by her side, his bow and quivel on his back, lifts his hand towards the goddess' genitals, as if pointing to the source of the fire. On the upper part of the print is a sort of love trophy, made up of the head of cupid and two flaming arrows forming a cross behind it. This trophy is flanked to the sides by two textile hangings, which hold two crabs, flanked by two laurel leaves. Under them are two doves, attributes of both Venus and luxury, placed symmetrically to symbolize loving carresses. Near the feet of the goddess are two flaming hearts, also her attributes and symbols of love. The motifs on the lower part of the print, under the gantry, are more confusing: two serpents, on the outer sides, emerge from the ground as if to symbolize sin and the strength of evil. Serpents are also attributes of satyrs, two of which also appear in the lower part of this print, each holding a serpent on a latch. The satyrs are giving their backs to a globe, in the bottom of the print, usually a representation of the world, universally dominated by love. It might be that the lack of respect shown by the satyrs towards the globe is an allusion to the fugacity of loving feelings.

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