Annibale Carracci, Vénus endormie avec des amours, Öl auf Leinwand. Chantilly, Musée Condé, Inv. Nr. PE 63
Römische Kopie nach hellenistischem Original des 2. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. (Schule von Pergamon), Schlafende Ariadne, Marmor. Rom, Città del Vaticano, Musei Vaticani, Museo Pio Clementino, Inv. Nr. 548
Annibale Carracci, Studie zu einer ruhenden Venus (Entwurf mit einer Schar spielender Eroten). Windsor Castle, Royal Library, Inv. Nr. 2127
This study drawing was produced in preparation for a large painting showing the sleeping Venus and playing cherubs (now in the Musée Condé, Chantilly) which Annibale Carracci created in 1602 to decorate the private apartments of Cardinal Odoardo Farnese (1573-1626). Probably inspired by paintings by Titian in his own collection, the Cardinal commissioned, in addition to the 'Venus', the design of extensive decorations with erotic mythological scenes. Carracci had previously created the large ceiling fresco in the Galleria Farnese at the Palazzo Farnese in Rome for the same client. Prompting a modern renewal of the classical painting of the age of Raphael, it had considerable influence on the art of the seventeenth century.
On the large sheet of blue paper, Carracci first sketched the outlines of the sleeping Venus in black chalk and then modelled her voluptuous body by rubbing the black and white chalk. Next he outlined the figure in ink. Pausing repeatedly, the outline intended not as the curvaceous, decorative beauty of a Mannerist contour, but to serve as a support for the three-dimensional volume. The sensuous physicality, worked out in this way, is heightened by the position of the sleeping Venus's arm - here, Carracci was following the example of a famous sculpture of antiquity, the 'Sleeping Ariadne' (now in the Vatican collections). The left arm, laid above her head, reveals the body, while the right hand has been returned to her breast. This gesture may have been considered too erotic, because in both the subsequent pen-and-ink studies at top right and left, Carracci considered alternative positions. Of interest are the two autograph signatures, which indicate the importance the artist attached to his drawings and perhaps even reflect the practice among art dealers of cutting up such study sheets in order to sell them individually.