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Title Venus and Cupid
Collection Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery
Artist Werff, Adriaen van der (Dutch painter and draftsman, 1659-1722)
Date 1709 (dated)
Signed yes

In the right foreground Venus, nude and with her hair elegantly coiffed, sits on a rock draped with blue silk. She turns away from the viewer with her left arm raised and her face in profile. On the ground to her left is a quiver of arrows and a bow with a broken string. Cupid hovers before her and gestures upwards with his right hand. An outcrop of rock with tree branches on the right partly hides the rolling waves of the sea which are revealed beneath a cloudy sky on the left.The oak branch seen above Venus's head refers to the origins of her Greek counterpart, Aphrodite. According to Homer, Aphrodite was the daughter of Zeus and Dione, goddess of the oak tree. However, the seascape in the distance is a reference to another legend (told by the Greek poet Hesiod) of Venus's birth from the sea and her journey to shore on a scallop shell. The broken bow and Venus's agitated gesture suggest that the painting is a representation of the punishment of Cupid.

It seems likely that the frame, which features scallop and oak leaf mouldings, is original.

Current Accession Number 1933-245
Inscription front lr 'Chev./ V. Werff fec. / 1709'
Subject mythology (Venus and Cupid); figure
Measurements 49.5 x 36.8 cm cm (estimate)
Material oil on panel
Acquisition Details Given by Miss Helen Shipstone 1933.
Provenance Collection of Sir Richard Worseley, Bart. (1751-1805); by descent to Worseley's niece and heiress, Henrietta Anna Maria Charlotte Simpson; by marriage to Charles Anderson Pelham, 1st Earl of Yarborough (1781-1846), who married Henrietta Anna Maria Charlotte Simpson in 1806; sold Christie's, London, 12 July 1929, lot 125, bought by a dealer, Vokins (J. & W. Vokins, London) for 110 guineas; with Godfrey Locker Lampson M.P. (1875-1946) in February 1931, who gave it to his daughter Stella Locker Lampson on this date.
Principal Exhibitions British Institution, London, 1849, cat. no. 31.
Publications Waagen, Gustav Friedrich, Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain: Supplement, London, 1857, p. 69; Gaehtgens, Barbara, Adriaen Van Der Werff (1659-1722), Munich, 1987, cat. no. 35a, p. 251.

Between 1984 and 1985, a research assistant, Dr Brendan Cassidy, was employed by Nottingham Castle Museum to research and write a catalogue of the foreign oil paintings in their collection. The catalogue never materialised, but drafts and notes relating to Cassidy's research can be found in the Artist Files and in the archive at the museum. All references to Cassidy relate to these documents.

The attribution of this painting to Adriaen van der Werff has recently been challenged by Dr Barbara Gaehtgens (letter dated 11 October 1984 to Cassidy, in Artist File) and Dr. D. P. Snoep (Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem) (letter dated 15 July 1985 to Cassidy, in Artist File). Both state that the treatment of the nude is uncharacteristically manneristic.

The attribution to van der Werff was supported by Dr Brendan Cassidy about 1984, who compared its style, quality and inscription with the Venus and Cupid (Wallace Collection, London). He noted that the pose of the figure of Venus in this painting is repeated in the figure of the flute player in The Dance (1718; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).

Inscriptions on the back: 1. label (handwritten in black ink): 'The Rt Hon / The Earl of Yarborough / Venus and Cupid / By A. Vander Werf / 25/4/88'; 2. label (handwritten in blue ink): 'Signed and dated 1709 / From the Worsley Collection / Exhibited at the British Institution 1849, no. 31. / See Dr. Waagen's Art Treasures in Great Britain, Sup, p.69 / Christie's July 12, 1929'; 3. NCM accession number; 4. label, centre left (handwritten): 'Given to Stella Locker Lampson / February 1931 / g locker Lampson'; 5. freehand writing, possibly a name, in black ink, partly obscured by 2; 6. Christie's stencil: '375 EZ'; 7. label, upper left: '887 No. 43 / Nov 3rd / The Rt Hon / The Earl of Yarborough / Venus and Cupid / vanderwerf'.

Little is known about Miss Helen Shipstone other than that she lived locally at Sutherland Lodge, Lucknow Drive, Nottingham. The condition of her gift of pictures to Nottingham Castle Museum on 10 August 1933 was that they be hung together in perpetuity, with the sole exception of a portrait by William Nicholson, and called the Helen Shipstone Collection. The gift included two still lifes by Barent Vermeer (NCM 1933-254; NCM 1933-253). Most of the paintings given by her however were nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British and included works by John Linnell and G. F. Watts.

Rights Owner Nottingham City Museums and Galleries: Nottingham Castle
Author Dr Rebecca Virag



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