Dulwich Picture Gallery II


Follower of Rubens DPG165

DPG165 – Venus and Cupid warming Themselves (Venus frigida)

1610s; oak panel, 33.5 x 46.6 cm, excluding a probable addition of 2 cm at the bottom

Bourgeois Bequest, 1811; Britton 1813, p. 22, no. 217 (‘Drawing Room / no. 5; Venus & Cupid – the latter making a fire – P[anel] Rubens’; 2'2" x 1'10").

Cat. 1817, p. 10, no. 172 (‘SECOND ROOM – East side; Venus and Cupid; Rubens’); Haydon 1817, p. 387, no. 172;1 Cat. 1820, p. 10, no. 172 (Venus and Cupid; Rubens); Cat. 1830, p. 9, no. 170; Jameson 1842, ii, p. 470, no. 170 (Rubens?); Clarke 1842, no. 170 (‘an unsightly picture’); Denning 1858 and 1859, no. 170 (Venus and Cupid. A Sketch); Lavice 1867, p. 181 (Rubens no. 10);2 Sparkes 1876, p. 151, no. 170 (Rubens); Richter & Sparkes 1880, p. 144, no. 170 (under ‘In the style of Rubens by his scholars or imitators’);3 Rooses 1886–92, iii (1890), p. 186 (studio of Rubens);4 Richter & Sparkes 1892 and 1905, p. 43, no. 165 (school of Rubens); Cook 1914, p. 102, no. 165; Cook 1926, p. 96; Cat. 1953, p. 35; Müller Hofstede 1967a, p. 117 (note 12); Müller Hofstede 1967c, pp. 430 (fig. 1), 431–2 (Rubens); Murray 1980a, p. 116 (attributed to Rubens); Murray 1980b, p. 25; Bodart 1985, p. 159, no. 142a; Beresford 1998, p. 215 (Follower of Rubens); Trnek 1989, p. 210 (Rubens); Trnek 2000, p. 44, under no. 7 (Related works, no. 1 [1]; Rubens); Widauer 2004a, pp. 230–31, under no. 36 (Related works, no. 1); Trnek in Kräftner, Seipel & Trnek 2005, p. 92, under no. 19 (Related works, no. 1); Tyers 2014, pp. 31–3; Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, pp. 206, 215; RKD, no. 294908: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/294908 (Aug. 7, 2019).

Atlanta/Denver/Seattle 2007–8, pp. 38 (fig.), 261, no. 93 (A. Dumas; Follower of Peter Paul Rubens).

The painting is executed on a single eastern Baltic oak panel with horizontal grain and a very slight warp; there is a 17–19 mm (possibly later) addition at the bottom. Dendrochronology indicates that this board derived from a tree that was felled between 1608 and c. 1617. A repaired horizontal crack can be seen in the top right. The reverse is painted and bears an inscription, ‘№ 8’, which is more clearly visible in UV. The background is painted in thin transparent glazes, which have been rather abraded in some places; the thinness and transparency of the paint layers, in the background and elsewhere, allows the brown underdrawing to show through in places. The flesh areas show some signs of retouched wear. It has been suggested that the ‘crude execution’ of the Cupid indicates that this figure was painted by another hand, although an X-ray of the painting shows no difference in the preparation of that area. Previous recorded treatment: 1953–5, conserved, Dr Hell; 1980, cleaned, losses filled, split mended, retouched, varnished, National Maritime Museum, C. Hampton.

1a) (Prime version?) Peter Paul Rubens, Sine Cerere et Baccho friget Venus (Without Ceres and Bacchus Venus would freeze, or Freezing Venus), c. 1614, panel, 51.5 x 79 cm. Gemäldegalerie der Akademie, Vienna, A 13 [1].5
1b) Rooses records another picture in the De Bom collection in 1878, perhaps identical with one in the Weustenberg collection, Berlin.6
2a) (Pendant?) Peter Paul Rubens, Crescetis Amores (Loves will grow) (Venus nursing Cupids), signed and dated 1616 and other inscriptions, pen and brown ink and wash and black chalk, with touches of black ink, heightened with white, on light brown paper, 246 by 179 mm. Private collection, Antwerp (Sotheby’s New York, 26 Jan. 2011, lot 585) [2].7
2b) (in reverse) Cornelis Galle II after 2a, Crescetis Amores (Loves will grow) (Venus nursing Cupids), 1627–8, inscriptions, engraving, 220 x 173 mm. BM, London, 1910,0208.9.8
3) Peter Paul Rubens, Sine Cerere et Baccho friget Venus, c. 1612–13, canvas, 140.5 x 200 cm. Museum Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, Kassel, GK 85.9
4) Peter Paul Rubens, Jupiter and Callisto, signed and dated P. RVBENS.F.1613, panel, 126.5 x 187 cm. Museum Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, Kassel, GK 86.10
5) Peter Paul Rubens, Venus Frigida, signed and dated P.P. RVBENS.F., panel, 145.1 x 185.6 cm. KMSK, Antwerp, 709 [3].11
6) Peter Paul Rubens, Youthful and Fertile Love (Venus Frigida) (also Venus and Cupid in Vulcan’s Smithy), previously Sine Cerere et Libero friget Venus; the left part of this picture is now in Dresden,12 replaced by a scene with Vulcan, 1625–32, panel, 179.5 × 199.5 cm. KMSKB, Brussels, 1372.13
Compositions by other artists
7) Jan Saenredam after Abraham Bloemaert, Sine Cerere et Libero friget Venus (Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus would freeze), c. 1600, inscriptions in Latin, engraving on paper, 270 x 205 mm. BM, London, 1928,1212.116.14
8) Jan Harmensz. Muller after Bartolomaeus Spranger, Sine Cerere et Libero friget Venus, c. 1597, inscriptions, engraving, 510 x 358 mm. BM, London, 1853,0312.59 [4].15
9) Hendrick Goltzius, Sine Cerere et Baccho friget Venus, signed and dated 1599, oil grisaille on paper, 43.5 x 32.1 cm. BM, London, 1861,0810.14.16
10) Hendrick Goltzius, Jupiter and Antiope, dated 1612, canvas, 122 x 178 cm. NG, London (on loan from a private collection), L1098.17

DPG165 seems likely to be the modello for the somewhat larger picture in the Vienna Akademie (51.5 x 79 cm), which is in a much ‘harder’ style (Related works, no. 1a) [1]. There are some small differences, though less than is usual with Rubens’s modelli (see for instance DPG43, DPG40A–B, DPG451, where more major changes are apparent and which were used for much larger pictures). Cupid’s quiver is present in DPG165 but absent from the Vienna picture, and his arrow in the fire, visible in DPG165, is not recognizable as such in the Vienna picture. The form of the leaves of the trees in the landscape on the right has also been changed. The landscape seems to have been painted by a different artist. For the landscape in Vienna Renate Trnek suggested Jan Wildens and Heinz Widauer was reminded of Adam Elsheimer (1578–1610), but they were not convinced by their own suggestions.18 DPG165 was in the inventory and catalogue as a Rubens since 1813, but Mrs Jameson questioned his authorship, and the debate has continued. In 1967 Müller Hofstede attributed the picture to Rubens again, but that has not been widely accepted.19 It was probably produced by a follower with a sound knowledge of Rubens’s methods and motifs, more apparent in the Dulwich sketch than the Vienna picture. Venus however seems to hover in the air in both: if they were by Rubens this would not be the case.20 Her pose, seated with her legs overlapping, is somewhat similar to that of Callisto in the Rubens painting in Kassel, Jupiter and Callisto, of 1613 (Related works, no. 4). That shows Jupiter (disguised as Diana) and Callisto, one naked and the other half-naked, over life size. The same is true of another painting by Rubens in Kassel of about the same period, showing Bacchus, Cupid, and the two goddesses Ceres and Venus, Sine Cerere and Baccho friget Venus (‘Without Ceres and Bacchus Venus would freeze’; Related works, no. 3). There is a clear similarity to the life-size nude bodies of gods and goddesses in the paintings of Hendrick Goltzius, who Rubens had just visited in Haarlem in 1612 (see for instance the picture on loan to the National Gallery, London: Jupiter and Antiope, Related works, no. 10), and those of another Haarlem master, Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem (1562–1638), who painted pictures of this type earlier, in the 1580s (see NG1893). Cornelis Cornelisz. could have seen such compositions in the works of Frans Floris I (1515/20–70) and Michiel Coxie I (1497/1501–85) in Antwerp, where he was in 1581–3, and Rubens himself could have seen them there.

A print after a Rubens drawing, with Venus nursing small cupids under the title Crescetis Amores (Loves will grow; Related works, nos 2a–b) [2], has been proposed to show a pair to the Vienna painting: in both compositions Venus is seated under a rosebush, facing in opposite directions in the two, and in both cases she has an unnaturally narrow neck.21

The picture’s iconography is of the ‘Venus frigida’, a theme derived from a saying recorded by the 2nd-century BC Roman dramatist Terence (The Eunuch, 732), that Sine Cerere et Libero friget Venus, meaning that without the company of Ceres (goddess of agriculture and fertility) and Liber or Bacchus (god of wine), Venus and Cupid will grow cold and have to keep warm by making a fire as shown here. It implies that love can only flourish with food and wine. Since the end of the 16th century this was a popular theme in the Netherlands,22 in both texts and images.23 In texts the message was mainly negative, but in images the harmony between the gods and goddesses was emphasized. Usually all four were depicted, Ceres, Bacchus, Venus and Cupid, as in the print by Jan Saenredam after Abraham Bloemaert (1566–1651) and the drawing by Hendrick Goltzius (Related works, nos 7 and 9), and in Rubens’s picture in Kassel (Related works, no. 3). A print by Jan Harmensz. Muller after Bartholomeus Spranger (1546–1611) shows Ceres and Bacchus walking away, hand in hand, leaving Venus and Cupid to keep themselves warm, as they try to do with a fire (Related works, no. 8) [4]. It seems that Rubens has singled out this scene in the background, with Venus and Cupid by a fire. He chose it as a subject at least twice – in the 1614 picture in Antwerp, called Venus frigida (Related works, no. 5) [3], and in the painting of which DPG165 is the modello, if Rubens was indeed the author.

follower of Peter Paul Rubens
Venus and Cupid warming themselves (Venus frigida), 1610-1620
panel (oak), oil paint 33,5 x 46,6 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG165

Peter Paul Rubens
Venus Frigida, c. 1614
panel (oak), oil paint 51,5 x 79 cm
Vienna, Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien, inv./cat.nr. A 13

Peter Paul Rubens
Venus nursing the cupids, dated April 1616
light brown paper, pen in brown ink, black chalk, brown wash, heightened in white 246 x 179 mm
bottom, in the middle : PAULLO HALMALIO / Viro In primis nobili / Senatori amplissimo / Amicitiae Indies augendae / ICONISMUM hanc / Petrus Paullus Rubenius / L[ibens] M [erito] posuit / Anno CIↃ IↃC. [NB the two squares are a reverse C] XVI Mense Aprili
Private collection

Peter Paul Rubens
Venus Frigida, 1614 dated
panel, oil paint 145,1 x 185,6 cm
Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, inv./cat.nr. 709

Jan Harmensz. Muller after Bartholomeus Spranger
Without Bacchus and Ceres, Venus grows cold, c. 1597
paper, engraving 510 x 358 mm
London (England), British Museum, inv./cat.nr. 1853,0312.59


1 ‘SIR P. P. RUBENS. Venus and Cupid. A sketch; in which Venus is seated, warming herself at a fire made by Cupid, who is blowing it up, and has a supply of sticks for fuel; rather doubtful, although of the school of Rubens; perhaps by one of his pupils, after him, and touched upon by his great master.’

2 Vénus nue, assise sur une draperie rouge, une cuisse posée sur l’autre. Son corps se détache sur un fond d’arbres noirci. Elle nous fait face et regarde le feu qu’a allumé Cupidon et qu’il va alimenter avec le bois dont il est chargé. A droite, eau, arbres. (Venus naked, seated on red drapery, one thigh resting on the other. Her body stands out against a blackened background of trees. She faces us and looks at the fire that Cupid has lit, and which he is going to feed with the wood that he is carrying. On the right, water, trees.)

3 ‘Differs both in conception and design from Rubens’ style, but resembles it in colour.’

4 Tableau et esquisse ne sont pas de Rubens, mais de son atelier (Painting and sketch are not by Rubens, but by his studio). Rooses however is describing the Antwerp picture (Related works, no. 5): représentant Vénus et Cupidon accroupis. Le petit amour, transi de froid, cache ses mains entre les genoux; Vénus lui met la main sur le dos (depicting crouching Venus and Cupid. The little cupid, freezing cold, hides his hands between his knees; Venus places her hand on his back).

5 RKD, no. 56408: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/56408 (July 19, 2019); Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 206, fig. 34, under DPG165; Gaddi 2010, pp. 98–9, no. 8 (R. Trnek); Kräftner, Seipel & Trnek 2005, pp. 92–3, no. 19 (R. Trnek); Trnek 2000, pp. 42–5, no. 7; Trnek 1989, p. 210.

6 Rooses 1886–92, iii (1890), p. 186: Dans la vente della Faille de Leverghem (Anvers, 1822), un tableau de cette composition (Toile. H. 167, L. 135) fut adjugé à 100 florins ; dans la vente Jos. De Bom (Anvers, 1878), il fut adjugé à Neumann. (In the della Faille de Leverghem sale (Antwerp, 1822) a picture with that composition (canvas, h 167, w 135) went for ƒ100; in the Jos. De Bom sale (Antwerp, 1878) it went to Neumann.)

7 RKD, no. 280094: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/280094 (Aug. 27, 2020); Büttner 2018a, i, pp. 361–8, no. 47, ii, figs 226, 229); McGrath 2016, p. 394–5, under no. 40.

8 RKD, no. 295007: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/295007 (Aug.16, 2019); see also https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1910-0208-9 (Aug. 2, 2020); Büttner 2018a, i, p. 363, print no. 1, ii, fig. 233; Baumstark 1974, p. 158 (fig. 20). See also the preparatory drawing by Galle auctioned in 2007, RKD, no. 188113: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/188113 (Aug. 9, 2019).

9 RKD, no. 38810: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/38810 (July 29, 2019); Büttner & Heinen 2004, pp. 311–14, no. 84; H. Vlieghe in Rubens 2004, pp. 92–3, no. 45; Healy 2001b, pp. 63–4, fig. 8; Jaffé 1989, p. 184, no. 191; Schnackenburg 1996a, i, pp. 259–60, ii, pl. 37.

10 RKD, no. 49979: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/49979 (July 29, 2019); Jaffé 1989, pp. 184–5, no. 196; Schnackenburg 1996a, i, p. 260, ii, pl. 37.

11 RKD, no. 294919: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/294919 (Aug. 9, 2019); Büttner 2018a, i, pp. 414–21, no. 54, ii, figs 275, 278; Van Hout 2014, pp.130–31, no. 53 (G. Gruber); Jaffé & McGrath 2005, under no. 82, p. 179 (fig. 62); Rubens 2004, pp. 94–5, no. 46 (H. Vlieghe); Denk, Paul & Renger 2001, pp. 168–9, no. 18 (K. Renger); Vandamme 1988, p. 327, no. 709.

12 RKD, no. 46666: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/46666 (Aug. 26, 2020). See also Related works, nos 2a–b of DPG403.

13 RKD, no. 296969: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/296969 (Aug. 18, 2020); see also https://www.fine-arts-museum.be/nl/de-collectie/peter-paul-rubens-jacques-ignatius-de-roore-herwerkt-door-venus-en-cupido-in-de-smidse-van-vulcanus?letter=r&artist=rubens-peter-paul-1&page=3 (July 31, 2019). Büttner 2018a, i, pp. 387–96, no. 50, ii, fig. 253; Vander Auwera, Van Sprang & Rossi-Schrimpf 2007, p. 273, no. 115 (B. Schepers and H. Dubois); Jaffé 1989, p. 228, no. 429A; KMSKB 1984, p. 253, no. 1372. For an image of what the scene originally looked like see RKD, no. 72069: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/72069 (July 29, 2019).

14 https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1928-1212-116 (Aug. 2, 2020).

15 RKD, no. 295064: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/295064 (Aug. 31, 2019); see also https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1853-0312-59 (Aug. 2, 2020); K. Renger in Denk, Paul & Renger 2001, p. 310, no. G 41 (version in Berlin). See for a later edn in the Rijksprentenkabinet, RKD, no. 295063: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/295063 (Aug. 31, 2019).

16 https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1861-0810-14 (Aug. 2, 2020); Curator’s comments: ‘For another version (pen and ink on vellum) see also BM, 1861,0608.174. Another grisaille picture at Aix-en-Provence repeats the present drawing in reverse and is probably a copy from Saenredam's engraving. Lit.: Reznicek 1961, i, pp. 287–8, cat. no.130, ii, fig. 338; Leeflang 2003, pp. 230–33, 324, notes 111–16.’

17 RKD, no. 686: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/686 (Aug. 16, 2019; was at Sotheby’s in 2010); see also https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/hendrik-goltzius-jupiter-and-antiope (July 29, 2019).

18 In a fax from Renate Trnek to Sibylle Luig, 3 Nov. 1997 (DPG165 file); for Wildens she adds ‘Not really good enough’. Widauer (2004, p. 231) says an Adam Elsheimer erinnernde Hintergrundlandschaft (the landscape in the background which reminds one of Adam Elsheimer).

19 Letter from Hans Vlieghe to Richard Beresford, 23 Sept. 1997 (DPG165 file): ‘work of a follower’.

20 Arnout Balis was rather harsh in his verdict, based on a photograph: ‘The figures may have been copied from a Rubens, but I can’t think of a specific picture. The trees don’t look seventeenth-century to me.’ Quoted in a letter by Paul Matthews to Richard Beresford, 19 Aug. 1997 (DPG165 file).

21 Trnek 2000, p. 45.

22 In painting, this is likely to be after an Italian example by Agostino Carracci (B. 115, probably before 1590): see Renger 1981, p. 110.

23 For an overview see Renger 1981 and Healy 2001b, pp. 62–4.

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