(1787 – 1849)
Venus & Cupid
Oil on canvas 20 x 26 in (51 x 66cm)
Etty was born in York and moved to London in 1805 to study at the Royal Academy schools. He was a pupil of Sir Thomas Lawrence in 1807-8 and travelled to Europe at the first opportunity after the Napoleonic Wars, to study the Old Masters, particularly Rubens and Titian, who were the key influences on his painting. Etty’s subject matter was exclusively the nude and at a time when such subjects were reserved for sculpture he was “the first British artist to paint the nude with both seriousness and consistency, combining visual pleasure with high moral purpose” (Tate Gallery Exhibition Catalogue, Exposed: The Victorian Nude 2001, p. 57).
This picture relates to a number of Etty’s done in the 1820s. The closest is the celebrated Venus now wakes, and wakens Love in the Russell-Coates Art Gallery, Bournemouth, exhibited at the British Institution in 1828 (repr. D. Farr, Etty, 1958, fig. 276). The title is a quotation from Milton’s Comus, but the picture is also known as The Dawn of Love and Etty clearly has a similar theme in mind for the present picture.
Etty’s career took off in 1820 with the exhibition of the Coral Finder: Venus and Her Youthful Satellites Arriving at the Island of Paphos. His 1824 exhibit Pandora Crowned by the Seasons was bought by Sir Thomas Lawrence for 300 gns. Etty was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1824 and a full Academician in 1828.