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Correggio, Venus with Mercury and Cupid ('The School of Love')

Key facts
Full title Venus with Mercury and Cupid ('The School of Love')
Artist Correggio
Artist dates active 1494; died 1534
Date made about 1525
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 155.6 × 91.4 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1834
Inventory number NG10
Location On loan: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, Chimei Museum, Tainan City, Taiwan
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Venus with Mercury and Cupid ('The School of Love')

A young family enjoys a tender moment in a leafy glade. Venus, goddess of love, holds her son Cupid’s bow as his father Mercury, god of communication and wit, teaches him to read. Mercury looks down fondly at his child but Venus gazes dreamily towards us and smiles. Unusually, Venus is shown with wings.

The painting was designed as one of a pair with Venus and Cupid with a Satyr (Louvre, Paris), in which a satyr draws back the cloth covering Venus and Cupid who lie fast asleep, revealing their naked bodies stretched out in voluptuous abandon. The Louvre’s painting represents the earthly Venus; the National Gallery’s painting represents the celestial Venus. The two pictures were meant to be displayed together, and an inventory of 1589 records that they were hung in a ground floor bedroom of a palace in Mantua.

The School of Love’ was always a very famous painting – elements from it have been copied by Titian, Annibale Carracci and Rubens.

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