Skip to main content
Venus and Cupid
Lucas Cranach the Elder
/

Venus, the goddess of love, leans against a leafy tree while her son Cupid, the god of desire, tries to get her attention. Clutching a stolen honeycomb, he complains as bees swarm and sting him – but Venus is uninterested in her son. Instead, her attention is directed towards us.

The Latin inscription on the tree trunk explains Venus' lack of concern for her son, as well as the moral of the picture: brief and fleeting pleasure is mingled with sadness and pain. It alludes to the sting of Cupid’s arrows of love, which cause a more enduring agony than any bee sting.

Cranach painted numerous versions of this subject; there’s another in the National Gallery’s collection, Cupid complaining to Venus. His depictions, which combine a moralising message with blatant eroticism, were especially popular with his patrons.

Key facts
Artist Lucas Cranach the Elder
Artist dates 1472 - 1553
Full title Venus and Cupid
Date made 1529
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 38.1 × 23.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit A gift from the Drue Heinz Charitable Trust, 2018
Inventory number NG6680
Location in Gallery Room 4
Download image
Download low-resolution image

Download an 800px wide, 72dpi copy of this image.

License this image

License and download a high resolution image for reproductions up to A3 size from the National Gallery Picture Library.

License image
Download low resolution image

This image is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons agreement.

Examples of non-commercial use are:

  • Research, private study, or for internal circulation within an educational organisation (such as a school, college or university)
  • Non-profit publications, personal websites, blogs, and social media

The image file is 800 pixels on the longest side.

As a charity, we depend upon the generosity of individuals to ensure the collection continues to engage and inspire. Help keep us free by making a donation today.

Yes, I'd like to donate
Or
Download low resolution image

You must agree to the Creative Commons terms and conditions to download this image.

Creative Commons Logo