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Guido Reni and Studio, The Toilet of Venus

Key facts
Full title The Toilet of Venus
Artist Guido Reni and Studio
Artist dates 1575 - 1642
Date made about 1620-5
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 281.9 × 205.7 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by William IV, 1836
Inventory number NG90
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Toilet of Venus
Guido Reni and Studio

In this monumental painting, Venus, the goddess of love, is attended by the Three Graces, who carefully fasten her sandals and jewellery. Her son Cupid stands before his bow and arrow in the foreground, delicately holding a pearl earring between forefinger and thumb, while a putto reaches through the window to place a flower amongst an arrangement in an antique urn. The semi-reclining goddess is shown with lips parted and eyes looking heavenward – an expression that came to be associated with both religious and secular women in Guido Reni’s paintings.

Multiple versions of this composition are known, and this painting was previously considered a copy carried out by Reni’s studio assistants. Recent conservation treatment has, however, revealed far more of Reni’s hand at work than had previously been thought. A strong argument has been made for it being the work painted for Federico Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, and delivered to him in around 1623.

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