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Bartholomeus Breenbergh, Venus Mourning the Death of Adonis (1646)

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Venus Mourning the Death of Adonis (1646) by Bartholomeus Breenbergh.

About the Work

Title : Venus Mourning the Death of Adonis
Artist : Bartholomeus Breenbergh
Year : 1646
Medium : Oil on panel
Dimensions : 38.4 x 49.4 cm (15 1/8 x 19 7/16 in.)
Location : Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Venus Mourning the Death of Adonis

According to the digital catalogue of the Harvard Art Museums :

“Here he represents an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in which Adonis, the mortal paramour of Venus, the goddess of love, ignored her plea to refrain from hunting dangerous game and was then gored by a wild boar. Conveyed to the scene by her swan-drawn chariot, Venus and her son, Cupid, grieve over the dying youth. She memorialized him by creating the anemone, one of her sacred flowers, from his blood, and the hemorrhaging wound is accordingly a focal passage of the picture.”


During the 17th century, the Netherlands was split into two parts. The North was Protestant while the South was Catholic. This was also the era in which the Dutch economy flourished due to trade and commerce. People had higher disposable incomes and the demand for art was unprecedented. As a result, the demand for paintings referencing biblical scenes, as the one discussed above, was also high.

Other Details

Bartholomeus Breenbergh’s Venus Mourning the Death of Adonis  is housed in the Harvard Art Museums in Room 2300, European and American Art, 17th–19th century. It is part of the museum’s collection of the The Arts in the Seventeenth–Century Dutch and Flemish Art.

To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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