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Title Mars, Venus and Putti in a River Landscape
Collection English Heritage (Chiswick House)
Artist Attributed to Albani, Francesco (Italian painter, 1578-1660)
Date Earliest possibly about 1620
Date Latest 1640
Description In the lower right corner Venus, the goddess of love, reclines on a large red cushion, her pale distended body is partially covered by a red silk drape that highlights her passionate nature. Standing in the centre Mars, the god of war, removes his helmet assisted by cupids, the rest of his armour is at his feet where two cupids play with his shield: possibly an allusion to Lucian's description of an ancient painting of the subject. Three cupids crowd round Venus, one holds a peacock feather fan while another four play in the middle distance. The principal figures are shown on a grassy embankment framed on each side by feathery leaved trees, beyond them a broad river valley spreads out with a view of distant mountains. The cupids immediately indicate the amorous theme of the subject: the adulterous passion of the gods Mars and Venus (who was married to Vulcan), while the harmoniously disposed idyllic landscape setting emphasises the pacifying nature of their passion, which emblematises the universal theme of strife overcome by love. The Bolognese painter Francesco Albani (1578-1660) trained with Denys Calvaert before entering the Academy of the Carracci where he studied under Lodovico Carracci for four years. In 1601 he travelled to Rome where he played a leading role in the studio of Annibale Carracci and in 1617, established as an independent master, he returned to Bologna where he headed a busy studio producing quantities of small cabinet pictures, mostly of mythological subjects in idealised landscape settings such as the present work which probably dates to this period.
Current Accession Number 88003071
Former Accession Number 131
Subject mythology (Venus, Mars)
Measurements 128 x 178 cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Purchased by the Department of the Environment for Chiswick House 1976.
Provenance 3rd Earl Burlington, Chiswick House (where recorded in the Green Velvet Room by 1728, 1761,1845); by descent to the Dukes of Devonshire; Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement sale, Christie's, London, 2 April 1976, lot 43; where purchased by the Dept. of the Environment for Chiswick House.
Publications D' Argenville, D., Voyage en Angleterre, 1728; Dodsley, R. J., London and its Environs Described, 2 vols., 1761, vol. II, p. 120 as 'Mars and Venus, Albano'; Faulkner, T., The History and Antiquities of Brentford, Ealing and Chiswick, London, 1845, pp. 395, 405 as 'Mars and Venus - Albano. Mars and Venus with Cupid in a beautiful landscape, the colouring warm the figures elegantly arranged. This picture resembles in extent and value, the well known large picture in the Louvre, and is very pleasing, from the warmth of the colouring, the elegance of the figures, and the beauty of the landscape'; Rosoman, T. S., 'The decoration and use of the principal apartments of Chiswick House 1727-40', The Burlington Magazine, vol.CXXVII, no. 991, October 1985, ill.
Notes The painting is recorded in two inventories of Chiswick House about 1740 and 1753; these are now at Chatsworth.
Rights Owner Copyright English Heritage
Author Francesco Nevola



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