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Statuette - Venus, Adonis and Cupid

Venus, Adonis and Cupid

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1640 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Fanelli, Francesco (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cast bronze

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Dr W. L. Hildburgh FSA

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 56, The Djanogly Gallery, case 10

Object Type
Many of Fanelli's small bronzes represent characters or scenes from mythology. A version of this composition was in the Royal collection in the 1640s, among the small-scale sculpture placed on the window sills of the throne room at the palace of Whitehall in London.

Subjects Depicted
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. Adonis was killed by a wild boar while out hunting.

Fanelli was born in Florence. He worked in Genoa, using marble, ivory and silver, as well as bronze, before coming to England in the early 1630s. Although he was said to have 'livd and dyd in England', it has sometimes been assumed that he left the country at the outbreak of the Civil War. The recent discovery of his baptismal records, revealing his birth date of 1577, make it more likely that he died around 1641, when he was last documented.

In the late 16th century, the Florentine sculptor Giovanni Bologna (1529-1608) and his followers were responsible for a significant output of sophisticated and high quality statuettes. These were dispersed throughout Europe and Charles I inherited a group from his elder brother, Henry, who died in 1612. They doubtless influenced both the King's taste and Francesco Fanelli's production.

Materials & Making
The lost wax method of casting is a complicated procedure that creates a bronze sculpture using a wax model taken from the original design. In Fanelli's workshop, waxes were cast in moulds taken from individual elements of the original, which could have been made of clay or wax. By assembling the wax sections slightly differently, Fanelli was able to produce variations of the same composition.

Physical description

Venus, Adonis and Cupid are shown on a base with two dogs.

Place of Origin

London (made)


ca. 1640 (made)


Fanelli, Francesco (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Cast bronze


Height: 16 cm, Width: 11 cm, Depth: 8 cm

Object history note

Made in London by Francesco Fanelli (born in Florence, Italy, 1577, last documented in London 1641).
Given by Dr. W. L. Hildburgh, F. S. A., 1956.

Historical context note

A version of this composition was among the small-scale sculptures placed on the window sills of the Throne Room at Whitehall in the 1640s.

Descriptive line

Statuette, bronze, Venus, Adonis and Cupid, by Francesco Fanelli, London, ca. 1640

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

Howarth, D. 'Charles I, Sculpture and Sculptor's'. In: A. MacGregor (ed.), The Late King's Goods, Oxford University Press, London & Oxford, no. 3, p. 100, fig. 51

Labels and date

British Galleries:

Records show that small bronzes like these stood on the windowsills of important rooms in Whitehall Palace. Charles I admired Italian statuettes, having inherited an important group from his elder brother, Prince Henry (1594-1612). He went on to buy the famous Gonzaga collection of antique sculpture for £10,000. [27/03/2003]





Subjects depicted



Sculpture; Bronze; Myths & Legends


Sculpture Collection

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