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Statue - Venus and Adonis
  • Venus and Adonis
    Nollekens, Joseph Frans, born 1737 - died 1823
  • Enlarge image

Venus and Adonis

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    about 1810 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Nollekens, Joseph Frans, born 1737 - died 1823 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 22, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries, case 2

This small study shows Venus trying to persuade her lover, Adonis, not to go hunting for fear that he might be killed (as indeed he was). Venus, the Roman goddess of love and fertility and mother of Cupid, fell in love with Adonis after being accidently grazed by Cupid's arrow.

It may have been executed soon after Nollekens returned to England from Rome, where he spent eight years from 1762 to 1770, working with Bartolomeo Cavaceppi restoring and copying antique marbles. One of his copies, the group of Castor and Pollux, is in the Museum's collection (Museum no. A.59-1940).
He probably perfected his modelling of clay while he was in Rome and started to experiment in making small figures or groups. These occasionally became models for large-scale finished marbles, but many, still in his studio at his death, were simply studies in their own right, which he called pensieri (thoughts).

Physical description

Venus and Adonis, terracotta sketch model. Venus, partly draped and half kneeling, embraces Adonis who turns away and repels her with his left hand; his right hand is raised before his face.

Place of Origin

England (made)


about 1810 (made)


Nollekens, Joseph Frans, born 1737 - died 1823 (maker)

Materials and Techniques



Height: 22.5 cm

Object history note

Given by Miss Zoë Gordon-Smith in 1944.

Descriptive line

Group, sketch model, terracotta, Venus and Adonis, by Joseph Nollekens, England, ca. 1810

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Illustrated in Burlington Magazine, LXXXV, September 1944, p. 222
Bilbey, Diane with Trusted, Marjorie. British Sculpture 1470 to 2000. A Concise Catalogue of the Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V& A Publications, 2002. pp. 106-7. cat. no. 146
Esdaile, K.A., ‘A Group of Terracotta Models by Joseph Nollekens, R.A.’, in: Burlington Magazine, LXXXV, September 1944, pp. 223, no. 6, and pl. II (D) on p. 222
Gunnis, R., Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851, (revised edition, first published London 1953), London, 1968, p. 277
Kenworthy-Browne, J., “Terracotta models by Joseph Nollekens, R.A.”, in: The Sculpture Jpurnal, vol. II, 1998, pp. 76, 78, no. 19, fig. 23 on p. 84




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