Venus and Cupid

Artist: Lorenzo Lotto (Italian, Venice ca. 1480–1556 Loreto)

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 36 3/8 x 43 7/8 in. (92.4 x 111.4 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Purchase, Mrs. Charles Wrightsman Gift, in honor of Marietta Tree, 1986

Accession Number: 1986.138


Lorenzo Lotto, whose unusual genius makes him one of the most fascinating of all Venetian painters, depicts Venus and her son Cupid in a bower, a subject inspired by ancient marriage poems known as "epithalamia." It was almost certainly painted to celebrate a wedding and Venus’s features may be taken from the bride’s. Lotto was fascinated with emblematic devices, here relating to the goddess and marriage. The shell above Venus’s head and the rose petals on her lap are her attributes, while the ivy is symbolic of fidelity and the myrtle wreath was worn by the bride. Cupid’s action, an augury of fertility, confers a mood of light-hearted wit. The painting was probably done in the mid-1520s for a cultivated couple in either Bergamo or Venice.