Depicting Venus sleeping on a tasseled cushion below a draped canopy held up by putti, and Cupid leading Adonis to her, his dog straining on the leash to go hunting.
The central panel is surrounded by an elaborate border featuring an arabesque frieze interspersed with flowers.
Woven in wool and silk the tapestry is in excellent condition.
HEIGHT ON THE LEFT: 329 cm (10'10") HEIGHT ON THE RIGHT: 323 cm (10'7") WIDTH: 525 cm (17'3")
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This Beauvais tapestry depicts Venus sleeping on a tasseled cushion below a draped canopy held up by putti, and Cupid leading Adonis to her, his dog straining on the leash to go hunting. The tapestry is exceptional for its excellent condition and lively interpretation of the original Albani canvas. The subject is from a story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which Venus, accidentally wounded by one of Cupid’s arrows, catches sight of the hunter Adonis and falls instantly in love. Though she warns him to be careful and not hunt the most vicious animals, Adonis ignores her warning and pursues a wild boar. He succeeds in wounding it, but the boar impales him with its tusk in revenge. Venus sees her beloved bleeding to death and though she cannot save him, she sprinkles nectar onto his blood, creating anemone flowers so that he will never be forgotten.
The central panel is surrounded by an elaborate border featuring an arabesque frieze interspersed with flowers to celebrate the Arcadian festival of Venus, fixed in time as Ver Perpetuum, the Spring of everlasting love. Tulips and Roses (symbolising perfect love), Forget-me-nots and Poppies (symbolising eternal life, repose and faith between lovers) are contained in pairs of cornucopias (symbolising abundance and fertility but also holding associations with the west wind that is said to make the Anemone bloom) at each corner. The scalloped shell of Venus is at each corner and the Anemone of Adonis is centred on each side, predicting his fate. The outer edge is framed by golden Roman foliage.
The central scene of the tapestry, inspired by a painting by Francesco Albani (1578 – 1660) of the same subject (now in the collection of the Musée du Louvre, Paris), takes place on the shores of a lake going out to the sea beyond, recalling Venus’s maritime birth. Tired from pursuing Adonis, Venus lays to rest. The cherubs leave in search of Adonis as they gather fruit.