Venus Presenting Arms to Aeneas

Oil Painting
late 17th century-early 18th century (painted)
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Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) was born in Normandy but spent his formative years in Paris from 1612–1623. He may have studied with Ferdinand Elle (ca.1585-1637/40) and Georges Lallemand (died 1636) and was influenced by the second Ecole of Fontainebleau. He went to Italy and arrived in Rome, following a visit to Venice, in March 1624 where he spent the rest of his life. He became a member of the Accademia di S Luca by 1632 and received commissions from important collectors in France and Italy, producing history, religious and landscape paintings. His most famous pupil was his brother-in-law Gaspard Dughet (1615-1675).

This painting is a copy after Poussin’s Venus Presenting Arms to Aeneas housed in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen. It depicts Venus, attended by putti and a swan, showing her son Aeneas the arms she had have forged for him. Aeneas is presented here as a Greek hero with a large cloak wrapped around him and a helmet while reclining figures on the ground symbolised fluvial divinities. This painting is a good example of Poussin’s mythological subject and Classical baroque art, which combined movement with a symmetrical balance.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Oil on canvas
Brief Description
Oil on canvas, 'Venus Presenting Arms To Aeneas', After Nicolas Poussin, late 17th century-early 18th century.
Physical Description
In a landscape, Venus, attended by putti, one of them holding a torch, and a swan, presents Aeneas his arms hanging from a tree while three reclining figures are lying on the ground with amphorae beside them.
Dimensions
  • Estimate height: 105cm
  • Estimate width: 128cm
Styles
Credit line
Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides
Object history
Purchased by Constantine Alexander Ionides, as attributed to Poussin, before Novembre 1881; in 1881, Ionides estimated its value at £300 (his inventory, private collection). Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides, 1900.



Historical significance: Formerly thought to be by Poussin himself, this painting is a reduced and partial copy after a composition currently housed in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen (Inv. 866.1), which Poussin painted in Rome for his friend, the painter Jacques Stella (1596-1657), in 1639.

It depicts Venus, Goddess of Love and Beauty, presenting arms forged by Vulcan, God of Fire, to her son Aeneas, surviving hero from Troy and future founder of the city of Rome. The story was narrated by the ancient Roman author Virgil in the Aeneid
Although the present copy is slightly smaller in dimensions than the original, it depicts the scene from a closer point of view and eliminates partially the oak from which Aeneas' arms hang. The colour scheme has also been modified, Venus' mantle being originally white became here red. The overall copy is warmer in tones while the Rouen painting shows a cooler tonality, almost silvery in several areas, especially on Venus' body.

According to Christopher Wright, this subject matter is rare in Poussin's output although it was quite popular during the 17th century. However another earlier version is housed in the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto and is based on a similar compositional idea with perhaps a greater focus on the landscape and smaller figures.
Historical context
History painting, i.e. depictions of non recurring events based on religious, classical, literary or allegorical sources, particularly developed in Italy during the Renaissance (15th-16th centuries). History painting could include religious themes, or depictions of momentous recent events, but the term was most frequently associated with Classical subject-matter. However a renewed impetus was given to religious subjects after the Council of Trent (1545-63), which stipulated new iconographical programmes. The development of art treatises, in which the compositional rules guiding the art of painting were discussed also notably, influenced the evolution of history painting. From around 1600 history painting's principal rivals: still-life, landscape and genre painting began to emerge as independent collectable genres. Furthermore, the Rococo taste for the ornamental in the early 18th century prioritised the decorative quality of history painting, so that subject matters became more entertaining than exemplary. There was a renewed interest in history painting during the Neo-Classical period after which the taste for such pictures faded towards the end of the 19th century when an innovative approach to the image was led by the Symbolists and was developed further by subsequent schools in the early 20th century.
Subjects depicted
Literary ReferenceVirgil's Aeneid, 8:616-8
Summary
Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) was born in Normandy but spent his formative years in Paris from 1612–1623. He may have studied with Ferdinand Elle (ca.1585-1637/40) and Georges Lallemand (died 1636) and was influenced by the second Ecole of Fontainebleau. He went to Italy and arrived in Rome, following a visit to Venice, in March 1624 where he spent the rest of his life. He became a member of the Accademia di S Luca by 1632 and received commissions from important collectors in France and Italy, producing history, religious and landscape paintings. His most famous pupil was his brother-in-law Gaspard Dughet (1615-1675).



This painting is a copy after Poussin’s Venus Presenting Arms to Aeneas housed in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen. It depicts Venus, attended by putti and a swan, showing her son Aeneas the arms she had have forged for him. Aeneas is presented here as a Greek hero with a large cloak wrapped around him and a helmet while reclining figures on the ground symbolised fluvial divinities. This painting is a good example of Poussin’s mythological subject and Classical baroque art, which combined movement with a symmetrical balance.
Bibliographic References
  • C.M. Kauffmann, Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800. London: 1973, pp. 227-230, cat. no. 287
  • W. Friedlander, Nicolas Poussin, Munich, 1914, pp. 116, 182, repr.
  • H. Grautoff, Poussin, ii, 1914, p. 109.
  • B. Long, Catalogue of the Ionides Collection, 1925, p. 21 f.
  • A. Blunt, The paintings of Poussin: critical catalogue, 1966, p. 133 f., no. 191.
Collection
Accession Number
CAI.21

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record createdMay 4, 2006
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