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Venus and Cupid

Battista Dossi (Battista de' Luteri), Italian (active Ferrara), c. 1474 - 1548

Made in Ferrara, Italy, Europe

c. 1540

Oil on canvas

62 × 50 1/4 inches (157.5 × 127.6 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 352, European Art 1500-1850, third floor (ARCO Gallery)

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the George W. Elkins Fund, 1972

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Several details in this picture suggest that it is an allegorical portrait of a young bride as Venus. She restrains a naughty Cupid from shooting a lead-tipped arrow (for extinguishing love rather than kindling it). The laurel tree with its clinging vine suggests hope for long-lasting love. Finally, Venus's revealed breast symbolizes voluptuousness, while the covered one represents modesty, two virtues appropriate in a bride.


Possibly collection of the d'Este family, Dukes of Ferrara [1]. George Salting, London, by 1907 [2]; Sir George Donaldson, London, by 1914, until no later than 1928 [3]. Lord Rochdale (possibly George Kemp, 1st Baron Rochdale [1866-1945]), London. Wildenstein & Co., New York [4]; sold to Gladys Lloyd Cassell Robinson (1895-1971), Los Angeles, by 1959-1971 [5]; her sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, October 26, 1960, no. 9, illus. (as Dosso Dossi), unsold; Gladys Lloyd Robinson estate, 1971-1972; purchased by the City of Philadelphia with the George W. Elkins Fund, 1972. 1. The painting is possibly to be associated with a Dossi painting of Venus and Cupid discussed by Giustiniani Masdoni in the 1618 inventory of the Cesare d'Este collection in Modena (see Scott Schaefer, "Battista Dossi's 'Venus and Cupid'," Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 74, no. 320, March 1978, p. 16). 2. Salting is listed as the current owner in Bernard Berenson, North Italian Painters of the Renaissance, New York and London, 1907, p. 209. 3. Henriette Mendelsohn, Das Werk der Dossi, Munich, 1914, p. 142. The painting had left Donaldson's collection by 1928; see Adolfo Venturi, Storia dell'Arte Italiana, Milan, 1928, vol. 9, pt. 3, p. 997, which describes the painting as "formerly Donaldson collection" (Collezione già Donaldson). 4. Provenance per Parke-Bernet 1960 sale catalogue. 5. Gladys Robinson was the former wife of the actor and art collector Edward G. Robinson, whom she divorced in 1956.

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