The Wallace Collection

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Venus and Adonis
  • Attributed to Robert Le Lorrain (1666 - 1743) , (model)
  • Workshop of Robert Le Lorrain (1666 - 1743), Cast by, Possibly
  • Venus and Adonis
  • France
  • c. 1704 (model)
    c. 1705 - c. 1725 (cast)
  • Group
  • Brassy alloy, lost-wax cast. Cast in sleeve-joined sections. Thick near-black coating scratched and worn off in places.
  • Statuette and mount, Height: 55.5 cm
    Mount, Object size: 10.4 x 10.4 cm
    Diameter: 23 cm
  • S185
  • East Galleries II
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This model can be identified with bronzes described in mid-eighteenth-century sales, where it is often paired with a group with Vertumnus and Pomona, a model which was exhibited at the 1704 Salon by Robert Le Lorrain (1666–1743). An attribution to Le Lorrain is also supported by similarities in the female body types and comparison with other works securely ascribed to the artist in the years 1695–1701. Four casts of the Vertumnus and Pomona are known, whereas only one other cast of this composition has so far been identified, in the Elisée Palace in Paris. As opposed to our version, the Paris model is complete, showing also the figure of Cupid behind Venus and that of Adonis’ hunting dog between his feet. The two figures are now missing from our cast, but the circular holes through which they would have been attached to the base are still visible.

    The story of Venus and Adonis is told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. According to one version of the myth, Venus fell in love with the beautiful hunter Adonis who seemed, however, more interested in hunting wild game than in the goddess’s company. His passion eventually killed him when he was gored by a boar and the tears shed by Venus turned Adonis’ blood into the anemone flower.

    It seems that already during his training sojourn in Rome in the 1690s, Le Lorraine was chiefly occupied making models specifically to be cast in bronze and destined to collectors’ cabinets. On his return to Paris, the sculptor was only intermittently working for the king, while he continued to devise models for small bronze statuettes and groups as well as for idealised heads in marble or bronze (see S33–34).

    The elegant composition of this group is typical of Le Lorrain's work and the light subject, subtly erotic atmosphere and the fact that the two models discussed were probably conceived as a pair are characteristic of the production of small bronzes of the age of Louis XIV, when small-scale bronze sculpture was mainly intended for decorating opulent interiors.