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Lucas Cranach, Venus and Cupid, c. 1537

National Gallery of Scotland Label:

The mischievous, naked Cupid, clutching his bow, identifies the languid nude lady as his mother Venus, the goddess of love. Her wispy hair and transparent drapery flutter around as if in a gentle breeze, their lightness contrasting with the heavy gold necklaces. She conforms to Cranach’s ideal of beauty, inspired by the theory of classical art rather than by practical examples. Cranach signed the painting on Cupid’s pedestal with a winged serpent. This motif featured on the coat of arms awarded to him by the Elector of Saxony in 1508. From about 1537 the serpent’s wings appear folded as here

Rewritten label:

Paintings of the female nude in Renaissance art such as this Venus and Cupid are believed to have possibly been painted to commemorate a marital union and were not originally intended for public view. They were placed in private collections in the home or marital chambers alongside marriage chests or paintings of other mythological subjects that were intended for men and women. Images of Venus the goddess of love and Cupid her son were appropriate for the husband and wife because they represented certain ideals they believed were necessary for having a successful marriage such as fertility, sexuality and mutual love. Venus’ confident gaze empowers her femininity, and her nude body implies she is not shameful of her young, fertile body.  It is a widespread misconception that images of the female nude were created for a strictly male audience as scholarship suggests they were created for a very specific purpose for both the male and female viewer.


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