Cranach’s Venus and Cupid Woodcut

In Cranach’s first image of Venus and Cupid, a 1506 woodcut, Cupid is the artist drawing back his bow to shoot a “victim”. His target, though, is not a spectator outside the picture but his own mother standing next to him. Indeed only when Cupid’s identity as “the artist” is known is the spectator likely to recognize an important inconsistency: Cupid’s head and foot are each placed behind Venus’ hand and foot, respectively, even while his hands and bow are placed in front of her leg. This slight perspectival confusion, clearly intentional because artists on Cranach's level do not make mistakes like this, suggests that Cupid “the artist” is not on the same level of reality as Venus. Her pose, moreover, is made to resemble antique sculpture for a good reason: Venus is “a work of art” as her rounded form and dark outline separating her figure from the background further suggest. 

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Captions for image(s) above:

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Venus and Cupid (1506)

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"Venus", however, is not a “painting” nor a "sculpture", even if made to resemble one, but a “woodcut” as Cranach suggests by making Cupid’s arrow resemble an engraver’s burin. See in the detail at left how Cupid’s “arrow” points downwards like a burin over Venus’ leg with its sharp point at a slight incline to the engraved lines of Venus’ leg suggesting, to those that see on this level, that it is "engraving" those very lines.

For more examples, see Cranach's other images of Venus and Cupid as well as Martin Schongauer's engraving of St. George and the Dragon.

Captions for image(s) above:

Detail of Venus and Cupid

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Notes:

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 20 Apr 2010. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.