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Lucas Cranach the Elder, Cupid complaining to Venus

Key facts
Full title Cupid complaining to Venus
Artist Lucas Cranach the Elder
Artist dates 1472 - 1553
Date made 1526-7
Medium and support Oil on wood, transferred to masonite
Dimensions 81.3 × 54.6 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Inscribed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1963
Inventory number NG6344
Location Room 25
Collection Main Collection
Cupid complaining to Venus
Lucas Cranach the Elder

Cupid, the god of erotic love, is complaining to his mother, Venus, the goddess of love: he has been stung by bees after stealing a honeycomb. Venus directs her attention towards the viewer instead. Her narrowed gaze appears flirtatious and she clutches the branch of an apple tree, evocative of the biblical temptress Eve.

This is a morality tale, based on a Greek poem from the third century BC – though Venus wears a velvet hat and jewelled choker in the style of those worn at the Saxon court where Cranach worked from 1505. The poem describes how life’s pleasures are mixed with pain, as the inscription at the top of the painting observes. Venus explains to her son that the wounds of love he inflicts with his arrows are far worse than any physical pain he may be experiencing.

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