Essay on Formal Analysis and Historical Context of Artwork

1552 Words 7 Pages
Peter Paul Rubens’ masterpiece, Venus and Adonis, is not only a significant artwork of the baroque-period in Europe during the seventeenth century, but it also tells the mythological story that begins with love, and ends in tragedy. Displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this painting is admired for representing the unique baroque-style of this era, as well as Rubens’ particular use of the medium and how it reaches those who are viewing it. His attention to detail and crafty use of symbolism within the painting assist viewers in deciphering the story, along with the values of the period in which Rubens was living. In studying the composition of the work and noting the historical context from which it came, one can ultimately …show more content…
Considering its position within the museum and in comparison to the other works with which it is exhibited, the painting definitely holds a dominance in the room and must therefore draw much attention from viewers. It size, as well as its subject matter, make it a very notable piece of artwork as well.
Peter Paul Rubens uses the story of Venus, the goddess of love, and Adonis, Venus’ mortal lover, as the focus for his work. Their story, originally told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, begins with the struggle of love as Venus tries to stop Adonis from voyaging on his hunt by attempting to seduce him (“Titian…”). Her struggle to keep him with her, because she knows of his fate, ends in tragedy as Adonis is killed by a wild boar. The scene that is depicted within the painting is Venus in the middle of restraining Adonis, with the help from her son Cupid, who latches himself on to Adonis’ leg. Adonis appears calm and assuring, for he is gently caressing Venus’ leg in a seductive fashion, while his dogs wait eagerly in the background (Adams 350). Along with the hidden seduction that lies in Venus’ face and Adonis’ touch, other hints of symbolism are incorporated throughout the work. Adonis’ dogs can be said to represent impatience, for the further of the two dogs appears to possess a somewhat…