Cranach rarely staged Venus alone; she is usually accompanied by her son, Cupid. On this small panel, however, the maternal role has been omitted. The Olympian goddess instead uses her ethereal beauty for the purpose of seducing the viewer, before whose eyes she seems to be pausing momentarily from her dance with the veil. The most likely setting for such an intimate relationship between painting and viewer would have been the privacy of an art chamber belonging to a collector with a humanist education.
The Gontard family property ‘Zum weissen Hirsch’ was situated on Grosser Hirschgraben in Frankfurt, near the Goethe and Passavant family residences. The businessman and art collector Moritz von Gontard (1826–1886) was chairman of the administrators of the Städelsches Kunstinstitut for many years. He made two gifts to the museum. On the occasion of the opening of the new building on Schaumainkai, completed in 1878, he donated Lucas Cranach’s ‘Venus’. Upon his death eight years later, he left the Städel thirty-three works of the Dutch and Flemish Baroque.