Venus and Adonis

Artist: Giorgio Ghisi (Italian, Mantua ca. 1520–1582 Mantua)

Artist: After Teodoro Ghisi (Italian, 1536–1601)

Date: ca. 1570

Medium: Engraving

Dimensions: Sheet: 12 5/8 x 8 7/8 in. (32 x 22.5 cm)

Classification: Prints

Credit Line: The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1953

Accession Number: 53.522.28


In his narrative poem 'Metamorphoses' Ovid tells us that Venus, grazed by Cupid's arrow, fell in love with Adonis and urged him not to hunt dangerous animals. Ignoring her advice, the handsome youth was killed by a wild boar. In antiquity, Adonis was worshipped as a god of the seasons who spent each winter in the Underworld and returned each spring, causing Venus, equated with the earth's fertility, to rejoice. In Ghisi's engraving, based on his brother's design, we see Adonis' dead body being nuzzled by the boar near a bare tree in the background. In the foreground, Adonis receives Venus' caresses in a verdant bower, his foot resting on the boar's head to demonstrate his victory over winter.