Venus Frigida


Peter Paul Rubens
Siegen 1577 - Antwerp 1640
oil on panel
145.1 x 185.6 x 38 cm
Inventory number 709

"Without Ceres and Bacchus Venus grows cold", wrote the ancient Roman author Terence. In other words, "No love without bread and wine". The age-old saying had inspired quite a few artists since the Renaissance, Peter Paul Rubens included. This Venus Frigida, or frozen Venus, is one of the few works that the Antwerp master actually signed and dated. In the foreground, the freezing goddess of love has her back turned to the viewer. Cupid, too, is trying desperately to keep warm. He has exchanged his arrows of love for a loincloth. Behind the pair, a satyr appears. With his cornucopia filled with delicacies, the follower of Bacchus tries to reignite the fire of life in the pair. The dark landscape to the left and the tree trunks to the right are later additions to the composition.

Model of stone

In the 17th century, posing nude was not self-evident. Therefore, Rubens would copy the postures of nude statues from Antiquity and the Renaissance. A marble statue that he had admired during his time in Rome served as a source of inspiration for this Venus. By combining flesh tones with red, orange, yellow and blue hues, he transformed the stone model into a woman of flesh and blood. If you look closely enough, you might be able to make out the shivers running down her spine.

In early 2010, this painting was the focus of an extensive study by the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp.

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