Venus and Adonis, attributed to Francesco Fanelli

England, 1630s

A cabinet piece for an English collector

When this small figure group was in the collection of Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), he described it as the work of 'Fiamengo', a north European sculptor working in Italy. In fact it was probably made by the Italian sculptor Francesco Fanelli (active 1605-1641), who worked in London for King Charles I (reigned 1625-49) between at least 1632 and 1641.

The group was probably made for display in a small cabinet room, perhaps on a high shelf. It is an excellent example of the small bronze sculptures for which Fanelli became famous among his English patrons. Other versions of the same group in brass survive, but Sloane's is the only example with the hillock cast in brass and the figures in silver. The ebony veneer base is almost certainly original.

The composition depicts part of the story of the doomed love of the goddess Venus for Adonis, as told in the ancient Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses. After being grazed by one of Cupid's arrows, Venus falls passionately for Adonis, but he does not return her love. Here he is shown ignoring her pleas not to go hunting with his hounds. Venus's forebodings are well founded, as a giant boar kills Adonis. This is alluded to by the dead animal in the foreground.

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Height: 15.500 cm

Museum number

M&ME SL 168


Sir Hans Sloane collection


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