Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dying or Dead Adonis and Mourning Venus

Giovanni da Castelbolognese
Venus and dying Adonis
ca. 1540-45
rock-crystal intaglio
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Pair of Altars with relief-scenes of the death of Adonis
ca. 400-375 BC
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


I mourn Adonis dead – loveliest Adonis –
Dead, dead Adonis – and the Loves lament.
Sleep no more, Venus, wrapped in purple woof –
Wake violet-stoled queen, and weave the crown
Of death, – 'tis Misery calls, – for he is dead.

    The lovely one lies wounded in the mountains,
His white thigh struck with the white tooth; he scarce
Yet breathes; and Venus hangs in agony there,
The dark blood wanders o'er his snowy limbs,
His eyes beneath their lids are lustreless,
The rose has fled from his wan lips, and there
That kiss is dead, which Venus gathers yet.

    A deep, deep wound Adonis . . .
A deeper Venus bears upon her heart.
See, his beloved dogs are gathering round –
The Oread nymphs are weeping – Aphrodite
With hair unbound is wandering through the woods,
'wildered, ungirt, unsandalled – the thorns pierce
Her hastening feet and drink her sacred blood.
Bitterly screaming out, she is driven on
Through the long vales; and her Assyrian boy,
Her love, her husband, calls – the purple blood
From his struck thigh stains her white navel now,
Her bosom, and her neck before like snow.

– written in Greek by Bion (1st century BC), translated by Percy Bysshe Shelley (ca. 1822)

Cornelis van Haarlem
Venus and Adonis
oil on canvas
Baltimore Art Museum

Paolo Veronese
Venus and Adonis
ca. 1580
oil on canvas
Prado, Madrid

Annibale Carracci
Venus, Adonis and Cupid
ca. 1590
oil on canvas
Prado, Madrid

workshop of Simon Vouet
Venus and Adonis
ca. 1638
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Giuseppe Mazzuola
Death of Adonis
ca. 1680-1709
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg


I mourn for Adonis – Adonis is dead.
    Weep no more in the woods, Cytherea, thy lover!
So, well! make a place for his corse in thy bed,
    With the purples thou sleepest in, under and over.
He's fair though a corse – a fair corse . . . like a sleeper –
    Lay him soft in the silks he had pleasure to fold,
When, beside thee at night, holy dreams deep and deeper
    Enclosed his young life on the couch made of gold!
Love him still, poor Adonis! cast on him together
    The crowns and the flowers! since he died from the place,
Why let all die with him – let the blossoms go wither;
    Rain myrtles and olive-buds down on his face!
Rain the myrrh down, let all that is best fall a-pining,
    Since the myrrh of his life from thy keeping is swept! –
– Pale he lay, thine Adonis, in purples reclining –

– written in Greek by Bion (1st century BC), translated by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1853)

Venus and Adonis
ca. 1600-1610
oil on copper
private collection

Luca Cambiaso
Venus and Adonis
before 1585
oil on canvas
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Maerten de Vos
Venus and Adonis
before 1603
oil on panel
private collection

Nicolas Poussin
Venus weeping over Adonis
oil on canvas
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Caen

Peter Paul Rubens
Death of Adonis
ca. 1614
oil on canvas
Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini
Venus weeping over body of Adonis
ca. 1704
Villa Alessandri, Mira

Hendrik Goltzius
Dying Adonis
oil on canvas
Rijksmuseum. Amsterdam


Deep in his Thigh, deep went the killing smart,
But deeper far it goes in Venus heart:
His faithful Dogs about the Mountain yell,
And the hard fate of their dead Master tell:
The troubled Nymphs alike in doleful strains
Proclaim his death through all the Fields and Plains:
But the sad Goddess, most of all forlorn,
With love distracted, and with sorrow torn,
Wild in her look, and rueful in her air,
With garments rent, and with dishevel'd hair,
Through Brakes, through Thickets, and through pathless ways,
Through Woods, through Haunts, and Dens of Savages,
Undrest, unshod, careless of Honor, Fame,
And Danger, flies, and calls on his lov'd name.
Rude Brambles, as she goes, her body tear,
And her cut feet with blood the stones besmear.
She thoughtless of the unfelt smart flies on,
And fills the Woods and Vallies with her moan,
Loudly does on the Stars and Fates complain,
And prays them give Adonis back again:
But he, alas; the wretched Youth, alas!
Lies cold, and stiff, extended on the grass:
There lies he steep'd in gore, there lies he drown'd
In purple streams that gush from his own wound.

– written in Greek by Bion (1st century BC), translated by John Oldham (1681)