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Sine Cerere et Libero friget Venus (Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus Would Freeze)

Hendrick Goltzius, Dutch (active Haarlem), 1558 - 1617

Made in Netherlands, Europe

c. 1600-1603

Ink and oil on canvas

41 3/8 × 31 1/2 inches (105.1 × 80 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 364, European Art 1500-1850, third floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Mr. and Mrs. Walter H. Annenberg Fund for Major Acquisitions, the Henry P. McIlhenny Fund in memory of Frances P. McIlhenny, bequest (by exchange) of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert C. Morris, and gift (by exchange) of Frank and Alice Osborn, 1990

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This remarkable painting is actually a gigantic "pen work," an ink-on-canvas drawing transfigured by rosy touches of oil paint. The source of illumination in the painting—Cupid's torch—is also the focal point of the narrative. The flame rouses Venus, the goddess of Love, from a deep slumber. Two satyrs offer her grapes and fruits of the harvest, illustrating the painting's title theme: without food and wine, love cannot flourish. This ancient Roman theme was extremely popular in Holland at the turn of the seventeenth century.

This painting's exalted pedigree reflects its importance. It was in several royal collections, including those of Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor who had his court at Prague through the early years of the seventeenth century; Queen Christina of Sweden, whose troops looted Prague in 1636 and absconded with innumerable art treasures; and Charles II of England, where it remained until at least 1720.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.