Lucas Cranach the Elder: Cupid complains to Venus: about 1525
I went this Friday to the National gallery where this painting was chosen for the gallery’s regular talk and draw session. It’s a very familiar image to us but it is only through sketching it can we really discover the complexity of its composition.
Everything about this painting ‘screams’ seduction and sensuality. The figure of Venus feigns pretence at the impact her naked body is causing but we are not fooled, she is fully aware of her sensuous beauty. How does Cranach achieve the sensuality that this painting exudes? Firstly the body of Venus is impossibly long limbed and her up stretched arm emphasises her breasts whilst her left leg rubs suggestively against a branch. Her exotic hat with its plush interior and fur-trimmed exterior hints at a lush sexuality. Even the landscape which wraps around her suggests an abundance and rich fertility from the over ripe apples and the coupling stag and deer. So how does Cranach get away with such overt eroticism. It is cloaked in the respectability of a moral. The Venus doubles as Eve hence the reference to apples. The presence of cupid alludes to a story from the Greek writer Theocritus. Cupid steals the honeycomb from a bee’s nest and when stung comes to complain to his mother. The moral being that life’s pleasures often end in pain.
What ever one may think of the moral of this painting I for one am totally seduced by its beauty. So with apologies to Cranach I offer my sketches from the session.