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Little fur

Pablo Journal
The Louvre Test

Venus and Cupido

1998 Year 1 No. 5 Sep 10

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See also the other journals:
Daily Drawing 1.34 Art Journal 1.7 Creative Journal 1.7 Marketing Musings on Art 1.7
565, big mama
Rembrandt: Bathsheba
Picasso' Bathsheba
Wild and insolent
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After World War II, Picasso was asked to donate some works to French museums. As a compensation, he was granted a confrontation of some of his paintings to works of his colleagues in the Louvre, on a day closed to the public. Only very few persons were present. In a kind of ceremony, his works were hung side by side with other works of his choice. Rarely did someone speak. Afterwards, Picasso is to have said: "C'est la même chose!", i.e. it's the same thing: He and the other masters were doing the same, despite of different styles and attitudes. (As I recall the biographical notes of Françoise Gilot, then related with Picasso.) To me, this confrontation of works of different masters was a very interesting experience I would like to share with you. Hence this enterprise is dedicated to

Pablo Picasso.


This series is not intended to be a university course. I am not an art scholar, I am just a painter and art lover only. As lover I will approach one of the works of art the heritage of all mankind has left us, one by one, week after week, as long as I can. I will keep my investigation personal and simple, meant to open your eyes to see for yourself. Words can be used as a means to that end, but it is rather the space between the words that does the work. A great master of the art of appreciation of art, Kurt Rossacher of Vienna, demanded to see with nose first, eyes, tongue, heart, and only at last with the brain.

Your appreciation will give me the power and strength to endure. It is for you and all the great masters that I do this work, and I hope you will enjoy it. So don't hesitate to send me your feedback in order to help me with that goal! This kind of journal is new to the net, so please tell me if the size is ok (images are great, but big!).

As I am writing in a foreign language, I am not sure to express myself correctly, but I hope you will be able to guess what I mean any time.

Also, I invite you to join in my effort. Send me your articles and comments to be published in this journal.

Yours truly,

Rubens (1577-1640)
Little fur
Cranach (1472-1553)
Venus and Cupido
Rubens, Little Fur


Cranach, Cupid Complaining to Venus


Location Size Date Scan

Kunsthist.Museum, Vienna

176*83cm 69x33"


Mark Harden

I used this painting in Art Journal 1.3 to prove peculiarities in anatomy talking about Rembrandt's Bathsheba and the "Three Graces" of Rubens in Pablo 1.2 to confront it with Renoir's view of women.

Following John Berger who opened my eyes, I indicated that Rubens did not show the appearance of his second wife here but rather his experience with a beloved woman. In particular, the belly hidden by the fur is anatomically incorrect, the upper and lower parts of the body not meeting naturally, producing a feeling related to sexual experience not expressible in words.

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I talk about a sexual revolution in my comment to Cranach. We believe to have overcome the Victorian age after WW II, during my adult life, in our own sexual revolution, obviously not being over yet. The net abounds with "adult" content, the American president has to admit something unexpressible without losing office, I wonder how my kids digest all these sex magazines held right under their nose everywhere, in super markets and filling stations, commercial TV gets bolder year after year and public TV has to follow in order to survive.

Analyzing our "revolution", it is obvious that nothing happened at all. The revolution has yet to come. Look at this woman! She knows. This woman is painted such that a man can feel how it is to sleep with her. Compare it to any porn image. Those women don't know what sex is. The men shown there don't know what sex is. Perverse people obviously don't know what sex is, and here you see why our revolution is no revolution at all: Sex is driven perverse, hence is no sex at all.

You can see the difference very clearly looking from Rubens to Cranach. Cranach's Venus is a pin up girl without any experience. The joys her body may grant are small, and she herself does not know what sexual surrender is. She is cold and probably frigid, the metaphor with Cupido being a second clue: Cupido is not a sexual person at all, working with little nifty tricks to intoxicate a man who cannot understand or even remember what happened to him after. Cupido's existence implies that the intended man would probably not be in danger of being seduced were not Cupido helping out.

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Rubens needs nothing the like. He knows

Location Size Date Scan
London, National Gallery

80*55cm 31x22"



There is a paraphrase of this painting by Cranach himself in Brussels, not unusual in his days of shop production, and I remember a first short trip with a rented pickup caravan, my first daughter being 1,5 years old, walking about the museum, when we hit upon this copy.

I had heard the title "Honey Thief" before, could not relate anything to it, but the meaning hit me immediately when I saw the painting and I explained it to my mother-in-law and my wife, seemingly being an expert. I don't even know if scholars agree, but I still think I am right.

Carol Gerten calls it "Cupid Complaining to Venus", but in my book it is called "Venus with Cupido as Honey Thief". Now what does this mean? In the Brussels version, hanging handy at right height, there is one detail different: Venus reaches tenderly and caressing with her right hand into the opening of the tree.

Now the story is easy to read: There is a hole in the tree hosting bees, and Cupido has stolen some honey from them being bitten in consequence. This story is funny enough, it makes sense only through the moral to be transported with it, and the detail makes it pretty clear.

Cranach was, like Durer, living at the edge of Middle Ages to Renaissance. Naked women were new to art. Women were most evil in the Middle Ages, being the tool of the devil to seduce men or rather men's souls through bodily lust. Obviously, Venus as a heathen goddess is shown in a seducing pose, and Cupido is the god to induce sexual desire into men, to this end often equipped with bow and arrow, the heart pierced with an arrow being a symbol still used widely today.

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In this painting, too, the opening of the tree is formed like a female vagina, but it is not as obvious as in the Brussels painting of which I haven't found a reproduction yet. Venus, in the Brussels version, reaches at this projection of the female sexual organ in a frank and definite way. Cupido, having recovered the sweet fruit from this opening, wails (not really) suggesting that this play is not only sweet but dangerous, too. At least, I read, you got to be careful to avoid the painful consequences.

Contrary to medieval belief, these consequences seem to be of bodily nature only. Bee's bites hurt a lot, but they are gone in a day or two. Therefore this painting is a statement about a sexual revolution taking place in the wane of Middle Ages, Modern Age approaching.

In contrast to Rubens, Cranach does not show personal experiences. Cranach's women look all alike, kind of Barby style cutouts. I don't think this indicates a unique, real model like his wife or mistress. I guess it is a scheme he developed like others, for example apples or leaves, them looking all alike, too.


Tacke, Models

by Tina Tacke, Gallery Clay at Art Quarter

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