Despite the many art pieces that are in the MET museum, I was particularly attracted to Lorenzo Lotto’s Venus and Cupid. The reason I was drawn to this piece of mythological work is the peculiar erotic exchange between Venus and cupid, which is startling. Despite being naked, Venus looks out to the audience with a big smile, with laurels dangling from her right hand on a ribbon. Cupid grabs the laurel and urinates through the crown onto Venus body; surprisingly Venus is not disturbed by the act.
Venus and cupid is an unconventional work that creatively depicts two of the most celebrated allegorical subjects during the Renaissance. The artwork repositions both Cupid and Venus as the central aspects in a symbolically presented celebration of marriage, it responds to the eroticized presentations of Venus during the Renaissance period. Lorenzo’s work uses strong symbolism characterized by a deep use of contrast, it is simply mind blowing, and forces the audience to stare while holding back laughter from the fact that it is simply humorous. The artwork uses deeply saturated colors, and a bold use of shadows, it has been created by using bright colors and dark tones that contrast with each other giving it an exquisite detail; it is amazing how realistic the artwork is. The shadows on cupid’s ribbons can easily be observed. Lotto uses a deep contrast in Venus, Cupid and the fabric behind them. By differentiating contrast, Lorenzo helps the audience to navigate their eyes and direct them to Venus, Cupid and the urine.
By humanizing a divine power, lotto does not indulge in the presentation of an ambiguous identity of Venus but rather the presentation of a mythology in a human aspect. Venus appears to look for something more than the viewer in this artwork, she seems to understand the viewer; her smile is suggestive of a loyalty that emanates from a deep bond. Cupid antics and the snake lurking before her do not interrupt her. The uninterrupted affection is perhaps representative of the quality of an ideal companion, that cannot be unaffected by the challenges that are brought by long term relationships.
The change in Venus identity by Lotto helps to reinterpret her character and her relationship with Cupid who is her child. In contrast to other pieces that reflect Venus, Lotto does not present Venus and Cupid in the way that they are traditionally presented. In this piece, the two become part of the careful orchestrated platform that celebrates the virtues that are linked by marriage. The artwork creates a feeling of intimacy for the audience; one feels as if they are witnessing this unique and elaborate ceremony at first hand.
The fact that the artwork has been veiled deliberately demands readers to decode it. It is interesting to note that both Venus and Cupid have been depicted as being independent from one another, for example, Venus does not seem to be aware of the fact that Cupid is standing there and that he is urinating on her. Despite being independent of each other, the interaction between Venus and Cupid is, however, characterized by symbolism. The wreath the Cupid urinates through has been made by using leaves of myrtle, this leaves have always been associated with celebrations particularly weddings. There is incense that burns under the wreath; the incense burner is often used in religious ceremonies. In the context of this artwork, the burner adds a moral aspect to the artwork. The unique combination of motifs in this artwork presents transformative potential that symbolic devices could have on subjects. The motifs have been used to enhance the character or change their identity. Venus’ identity is symbolized by using a conch shell that hangs over Venus’ head, yet Lotto simultaneously makes her a more contemporary character by affixing her using a wedding crown
The myth presented by Venus and Cupid is significant as it helps illuminate the profane and sometimes provocative aspect of art and love. The myth is also representative of many qualities that were found during the Renaissance and the traditional eras. It is evident that the Renaissance period brought humanism, rather than presenting the religious figures, art took another direction of presenting gods and goddesses. Venus is considered as a very significant figure during the Renaissance, she is even compared to some of the most notable religious figures like Eve and Mary the mother of Jesus. The myth is representative of the changes and dynamism that was brought about by the aspect of humanism.
In my experience, I learned that Lorenzo does not stray from religious aspects in his work. Perhaps Lorenzo was trying to undermine the concept of roman mythology through his depiction of Cupid and Venus. Despite the fact that his work is immensely tasteful, it has stayed in line with traditional roman art. Though symbolic, Cupid activity presents a sense of mischief as he bothers his mother; the scene is intriguing from both a visual and conceptual standpoints.