Home Lifestyle Art Art News Venus and Adonis by Titian for Auction at Sotheby’s

Art News Venus and Adonis by Titian for Auction at Sotheby’s

Titian for Auction at Sotheby's
Titian for Auction at Sotheby's

Venus and Adonis by Titian for Auction at Sotheby’s

Old Masters Evening Auction

Live Auction: 7 December 2022•18:00 GMT


Among the very best versions of this hugely successful design, this important painting of Venus and Adonis constitutes the variant that is most complete in terms of its narrative. Only recently the subject of an in-depth study, which recognizes its qualities as a work conceived and developed by Titian himself, this is the most visually compelling version remaining in private hands. Not only does it depict one of Titian’s most important mythological subjects, inspired by tales of the loves of the gods, it is also the version that heightens the tragic aspect of the lovers’ fate. As a modified and inventive rendition of Titian’s prestigious commission for Philip of Spain, it reflects a practice that was a significant feature throughout Titian’s career: his sheer creative flair for reinventing compositional motifs. Here the artist’s genius lies in bringing the subject to life with characteristic mastery of handling to create sophisticated compositional solutions for one of his most influential inventions.

The popularity of the design, which Vittoria Markova has neatly dubbed Titian’s ‘best-seller’, is no doubt due in large part to the painting’s erotic charge and sophistication. Here, in a composition of startling immediacy, Titian brings to life the timeless literary motif of lovers parting. The goddess Venus has fallen in love with Adonis, a young man of exceptional beauty, after Cupid has inadvertently pricked her with one of his arrows. The lovers’ story is best-known from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book X, 532–39 and 705–9) but Titian invents an episode that is not in Ovid by showing Venus trying to detain Adonis; for here in a departure from the classic text, it is he who leaves her. As Adonis sets off to hunt, Venus warns him against chasing dangerous beasts and implores him to stay; but his hounds are impatient and he shares their eagerness to be off. The goddess’ warning goes unheeded and the couple part company.1 Adonis is soon fatally wounded by a boar, depicted in the distance at the far right. Venus arrives from Olympus in her chariot only to find him bleeding to death.2

Titian for Auction at Sotheby’s

Love · Desire · Death

The composition relates to the celebrated picture of the same subject, painted for Philip of Habsburg, Prince of Spain (1527–1598), later Philip II of Spain (reg. 1556–98), now in the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid (fig. 1).3 The Venus and Adonis that Titian despatched to Philip in 1554, forms part of a series of six mythological paintings (or poesie) painted for him between about 1551 and 1562 that rank among the greatest achievements of the artist’s career. The others in the series are: Danaëc. 1551–53 (identified as the canvas in the collection of the Duke of Wellington at Apsley House, London); Perseus and Andromeda, 1554–56 (Wallace Collection, London); Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto, 1556–59 (The National Gallery, London and The National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh); and The Rape of Europa, 1559–62 (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston). All six paintings were recently displayed to great effect at the National Gallery in London, in the exhibition curated by Matthias Wivel that was devoted to the mythological paintings made by Titian for Philip of Spain.4


The painting of Venus and Adonis today at the Prado was not the first version of the composition that Titian conceived. Indeed, he explored the subject in several works, of which the earliest treatment appears to have been developed some three decades earlier in the 1520s. His interpretations of the theme evolved over time, varying in size, differing in the details and showing fluctuating degrees of workshop participation. As Wivel has written on the subject: ‘Today, around a dozen versions of the composition, with individual variations survive’.5 Jane Turner and Paul Joannides have categorized the different versions in terms of their size and composition type and developed a chronology that proposes that Titian kept certain prototypes in his studio to use as a template for others, sometimes reworking the image on the prototype to develop his ideas.6 Some renditions predate the painting produced for Philip of Spain now at the Prado, while others were painted after it (see below). Perhaps the two best versions of the Prado design are this painting and the version formerly in the collection of the Earl of Normanton, now at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (fig. 2).7 The handling in these two versions suggests that they were painted in the second half of the 1550s.8



This Venus and Adonis

The visual evidence, and in particular, close comparison with the Getty painting, supports the hypothesis that both versions were painted after the picture for Philip of Spain now at the Prado, which would date them after 1554. This painting is the most fully elaborated interpretation of the story and crucially is the only extant version to include both the goddess in the sky and the scene with Adonis’ cruel fate enacted in the background. Examination of the painting begun in 2015 and the publication of those findings by Thomas Dalla Costa in 2019, borne out by the most recent campaign of technical examination (see below), argues for Titian’s direct involvement in the development of the painting.9 The presence of pentimenti and the introduction of new elements absent from other versions provides clear evidence of this picture’s originality. Miguel Falomir has described it as: ‘the best of the numerous replicas of this work that have survived’.10 As such, Venus and Adonis is arguably the best poesia still in private hands.

The handling of paint in this picture is confident and economic. The paint is worked from dark to light, built up in contrasting passages, from thin layers to impastoed highlights, whose texture is used to help model the forms. The fine quality of the picture is most strikingly apparent in the handling of the two figures. Passages that are particularly subtle include the central nude figure of Venus: the articulation of her back, the contour defining her waist and the modulated strokes of her white shift, which serve to establish convincing space between the pair, making her the composition’s focal point. Adonis’ features are also beautifully described, as is the tension in the hand that grasps the dogs’ leashes. A range of brush marks are deployed across the surface. For instance, thin layers contrast with thick impasto to render the sunburst around Venus in her chariot; while below, the viewer’s eye is drawn by the rays to the sunlit clearing where the tragic culmination of the narrative takes place. Here, the artist depicts with rapid painterly strokes Adonis attacked by a boar, all sketched in directly. Other passages executed with the same effortless touch include the distant landscape at the centre of the design, which opens up the space beyond the figures with broadly painted strokes of blue. This contrasts with more elaborate details such as the mask on Adonis’s buskin and the leather collar pressing against the fur of the light-haired hound. Such shifts in focus are characteristic of Titian’s work at this date.

Critical Fortune

In the extensive literature on the artist, this painting has until recently been largely overlooked, no doubt because it was not seen in public for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The exhibition ‘Titian’s Vision of Women’ at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (5 October 2021 – 16 February 2022), curated by Sylvia Ferino-Pagden did much to redress this. As one of the highlights in a gallery titled ‘Painted Poetry’ concerned with the Loves of the Gods, the painting was displayed with several of Titian’s mythological paintings as an autograph work datable to 1555–57.11 This occasion was the picture’s first public exhibition since 1822, with the exception of a little-noticed appearance in the exhibition ‘Tiziano L’ultimo atto’ in Belluno in 2007–08, where it was catalogued as a work by Titian; and its period of extended loan at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, between 2006 and 2012.12

In 1975 the picture was listed as a version of the Prado painting by Harold E. Wethey, who described it as ‘probably a replica by Titian’s workshop about 1560’, although he did so without ever having seen it. Indeed, at the time of publication of Wethey’s catalogue, the whereabouts of the picture were not known. Almost a decade was to pass before the picture entered the collection of Patrick de Charmant in Lausanne. It was not until 1996 that the Venus and Adonis was reappraised by W.R. Rearick, who judged it to be a fully autograph work and even went so far as to propose that it, rather than the Prado picture, as the first version painted for Philip of Spain. This theory no longer holds sway but nonetheless the quality he saw in its execution and the originality of its invention has now been recognized by others. More recently, Venus and Adonis has been the subject of a detailed study by Thomas Dalla Costa, who argues in favour of the attribution to Titian with the assistance of his workshop.13 As Dalla Costa writes, ‘comparison of X-rays and reflectograms has shown the presence of a series of adjustments to the preparatory drawing for this variant that perfectly match those of the version in the Getty Museum, lending credence to the hypothesis that the two canvases were painted almost simultaneously by Titian.’14 He proposes a date of execution for this painting of about 1555–57.

Technical examination of the Venus and Adonis

Infrared reflectography reveals the clear use of a carbon-based squaring up method on the canvas to transfer the design, as well as several subtle changes to the design made during the painting process, which help to situate the picture in the evolution of the subject (fig. 3).15 The presence of a grid was first detected by Dalla Costa.16 Its use suggests the design was transferred by eye, rather than traced from a cartoon. Squaring up grids have been found on drawings and paintings made by Titian throughout his career. Indeed, recent studies have shown that its use by Titian is more frequent than previously detected.17 It is interesting to note that grid marks similar to those seen here have been identified also in parts of the reflectogram of the Venus and Adonis in the National Gallery.18 Their placement differs from those in this painting, which may support the idea that squaring up and copying was done by eye rather than traced from cartoons. As advances are made in imaging technology, more evidence of Titian’s use of squaring-up grids on other paintings may well come to light.


Bold brushed contour lines for the figures are laid over lighter marks. Working up the underdrawing, they show numerous subtle adjustments to the design. In the drawing articulating Venus’ back, for example, differences between this and the National Gallery version suggest the anatomy has been investigated in greater detail in this painting. Modifications to the contours of the figures’ limbs are apparent in the infrared image, although perhaps more readily visible in the X-radiograph (fig. 4). Refinements to both of Adonis’ forearms, his hand as it grips the shaft of his weapon, his right leg, the angling of his foot, Venus’ legs and her right buttock are all evident. Even the underdrawing of the dogs shows some minor deviations, notably in the curled tail closest to the right-hand edge. One of the most distinctive features of this version – the detail of the distant Adonis being attacked by a boar – appears to have been brushed in directly. The ground is prepared with a greater proportion of lead white to enhance the lighter tonality of this specific area and to draw attention to the rapidly sketched vignette.


Although this version relates closely to the Venus and Adonis painted for Philip of Spain (fig. 1), there are numerous small differences between the two. Unlike the Prado version, which shows Adonis with a naked right shoulder, this painting adds another sleeve to his tunic with a white undershirt, like the Getty version. As can be seen with the naked eye and is confirmed by infrared imaging, the white drapery was added over the underdrawing for Adonis’ arm. Infrared also highlights small changes to the red drapery at his left shoulder and his left sleeve. Similarly, embellishments can be seen in Venus’ drapery where the white fabric has been extended over her thigh from a higher position – more like the Prado painting – to a shape that resembles the Getty version and the white drapery on which she sits has been extended at the left and painted out at the right. The drawn contour of Adonis’ cheek and chin, which resembles more closely his profile in the Prado composition, is reworked to give a narrower shape in the painted surface. Adonis’ right foot is set at an angle more closely comparable to the Prado painting than the same detail in the Getty version, producing a more dynamic effect. Infrared of the sleeping Cupid shows drawing marks that indicate a higher wing position, like the Prado version.19 The drapery, as well as the dove (Venus’ attribute) – deviations from the Prado version – are added over the figure and both doves appear to have been added later in the painting process, with the head of the standing bird extending over Cupid’s foot and the head of the bird in flight appearing to go over the foliage. This idea of pairing the birds – so that one is stationary while the other flies away, mirroring Venus and Adonis – is unique to this version. The bow, which along with the quiver is in a different position to the Prado version, is not reserved against the tree but painted over it at a later stage; so too the fluttering ribbon. Furthermore, small changes are apparent in the flagon, which shows drawing lines at its foot and mouth that are revised and not followed in the paint. A small but significant narrative change is introduced here: the flagon is in a different orientation to its position in the Prado picture and has been tipped forward, in an allusion to the imminent spilling of Adonis’ blood. As Falomir and Joannides point out, this enrichment of the narrative implies ‘Titian’s directing intelligence’.20

Fold or seam?


This version of Venus and Adonis, like the Prado picture, has a horizontal line running across it. In the past this has been said by some to be a fold, while others have judged it to be a seam joining two pieces of canvas. The predominant view – that it is a seam – is supported by recent technical evidence (fig. 5).21 Lengths of canvas had to be sewn together to make supports of suitable dimensions and it is common for canvases of this size to be made from more than one piece. Indeed, the presence of seams in large-scale canvas supports is quite standard for Venetian paintings of the period as the loom width of plain weave fabrics dictated a cloth size of approximately 106–110 cm.22 The Prado picture also has a horizontal seam across the centre of the canvas; corresponding with this are significant areas of associated loss but exactly how early these losses occurred cannot be determined. It is interesting to note that when Philip of Spain received his painting, he complained that there was a fold caused in packing (see below). However, it is very likely that this was in fact the join in the canvas. This experience may have prompted Titian to experiment with different solutions. On the Wallace Perseus and Andromeda, also for Philip, no seam has been detected. In this painting it is slightly further up compared to the Prado painting, while on the Getty version the seam is vertical and runs down the centre of the composition. The only large-scale version of Venus and Adonis to use a single piece of canvas without any seam is the picture in the National Gallery, which is painted on a canvas of an unusual chevron twill weave.23

Philip of Spain’s Venus and Adonis

Executed with supreme confidence over a tracing, Philip of Spain’s picture underwent no significant changes to the composition during the painting process.24 Its design was carefully worked out prior to its transfer onto the canvas and little alteration was thought necessary by Titian. Although the identification of the Prado painting with the one sent to Philip in 1554 is documented, Rearick questioned this. In 1996, he challenged the primacy of the Prado painting and put forward his theory that this Venus and Adonis, which he attributed fully to Titian – and not the Madrid version – should be identified as the canvas first painted for Philip.25 The arguments for this are convoluted and have not been widely accepted.

In September 1554 Titian sent a picture of this subject from Venice to Philip in London, where he resided following his recent and short-lived marriage to Mary Tudor, Queen of England. Letters written by the King Consort in December 1554 to his Ambassador and to Titian in 1556 express his dissatisfaction with the painting: he complains that damage to it had occurred in transit or unpacking. Indeed, there are areas of paint loss across the horizontal seam in the centre of the canvas but exactly how early these losses occurred cannot be determined.26 The Venus and Adonis under discussion also has a horizontal line running across it, which Rearick judged to be a fold. This led him to propose that it be identified as the canvas sent to Philip, postulating that it was later returned to Venice and replaced by an autograph substitute – the picture now at the Prado. This complicated and improbable theory has met with considerable scepticism and has had the unfortunate consequence of discrediting other aspects of Rearick’s study, not least questions of attribution and provenance.

In a letter to Philip that is undated but was probably written on 10 September 1554, Titian provides a rare commentary on his painting. He explains that Venus and Adonis was planned to complement Danaë, the subject of his first poesia for Philip. He chose to show Venus from the back in a deliberate contrast with the frontal view of Danaë: ‘Et perché la Danae […] si vedeva tutta da la parte dinanzi, ho voluto in quest’altra poesia variare, e farle mostrare la contraria parte’ (‘Since the Danaë that I sent to Your Majesty was seen from the front, in this other poesia I wanted to vary [the composition] and show the other side’).27 Titian’s source of inspiration for the motif of a woman seen from the back, turned towards her lover is a classical relief of Psyche discovering Cupid, known in the Renaissance as the Bed of Polyclitus (fig. 6). Thought in Titian’s time to be an antique, it existed in several copies. A bronze copy of the relief was owned in the early fifteenth century by the sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378–1455) and was later much admired by Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara (1476–1534), who attempted to purchase it. The motif is found on reliefs and gems and was known to artists including Raphael, who used it in the Villa Farnesina. How Titian knew the relief is not certain but he may have been familiar with the copy in Padua belonging to Pietro Bembo. In fact, in her recent discussion of the literary and visual sources of Titian’s poesie for Philip, Beverly Louise Brown has suggested that Titian may have drawn inspiration from other objects in Bembo’s collection, including the gem on Adonis’ strap, which may be a free adaptation of a standing warrior similar to the image of Alexander the Great on a carnelian intaglio that Bembo owned.28 In this version, the pose of the figure in the cameo differs somewhat from the one in Philip’s painting and it too may be a depiction of a specific cameo.


Venus and Adonis ‘seemed to contemporary viewers the most erotic of the poesie’

Following the dispatch of the Venus and Adonis to Philip, Titian’s friend Lodovico Dolce also famously wrote about it in a letter of 1554 to Alessandro Contarini, to whom he gave a detailed description of the composition. Setting out to describe the heights of perfection attained by each aspect of the painting, he first describes Adonis, drawing attention to the way in which Titian gives him a rather androgynous character: ‘As a woman he would have something of a man, and as a man something vaguely of a woman’, a difficult and agreeable combination that, as Dolce informs us would have been highly appreciated by Apelles, if we are to believe Pliny. He goes on to emphasize the importance of design and colour, underlining Titian’s unrivalled skill as a colourist, and then turns his attention to Venus. In so doing, Dolce addressed the question of paragone – or comparison. This debate championed the primacy of painting over sculpture and developed the idea that Venus is shown from behind ‘non per mancamento d’arte […] ma per dimostrar doppia arte’ (‘not through a lack of skill but to demonstrate double skill’).29 Pointing out the painting’s true objective to produce aesthetic and erotic pleasure in the viewer, Dolce compared the effect of contemplating Venus and Adonis to that of looking at the Cnidian Venus, a marble sculpture by Praxiteles of the naked goddess and one of the most celebrated statues of classical antiquity. For some viewers, including the Spanish ambassador in Venice Francisco de Vargas, the painting was excellent but ‘too lascivious’; certainly Venus and Adonis ‘seemed to contemporary viewers the most erotic of the poesie’.30

Titian’s Versions


Titian first treated the theme of Venus and Adonis probably as early as the 1520s. A picture, now lost, thought to date to that decade and to have been intended for Alfonso d’Este is known from a copy made of it in miniature by Peter Oliver in 1631, when it was in the Arundel collection (The Burghley House Collection, Stamford, Lincolnshire).31 The elements of its design differ from the composition of the present lot (the ‘Prado type’): Adonis, rather than holding a weapon in his right hand, tenderly embraces Venus; with his left hand he holds the leashes of two (rather than three) dogs; and nearby, a watchful Cupid (instead of a sleeping one) holds a dove. Titian’s lost prime version – the Arundel picture, or another similar one – may be the canvas formerly at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, missing since the Second World War; its appearance is recorded in a photograph (fig. 7).32



Two later treatments of the subject – considered by Wivel to be partly autograph and to date to the 1560s – both in the USA, one at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (fig. 8),33 the other at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (fig. 9),34 are adaptations of this earlier type, which includes a watchful Cupid holding a dove and two, rather than three, hounds, albeit with some alterations.35


A further version – now lost – was recorded in the Farnese collection in Rome and was probably commissioned in the 1540s. Its design, which is known from a reversed engraving of it published in 1779 by Sir Robert Strange (1721–1792) (fig. 10), still features two dogs (rather than three) and a putto holding a dove (instead of a sleeping Cupid) but the figures are those later found in the Prado type (although Adonis still holds a spear rather than a feathered dart).


The design for a larger, almost square variant incorporating a sleeping Cupid and a third hound – as seen here – developed before Titian completed his painting for Philip of Spain. Two extant versions, similar in format and type to the present work – also of the three-dog type and with a sleeping Cupid – seem to have been begun before the Prado canvas: one formerly in a private collection in Moscow and now in a private collection in Switzerland (fig. 11);36 and the other now in the Cobbe Collection, Hatchlands Park, Surrey, and formerly at Rokeby Park – hence its appellation ‘The Rokeby Venus and Adonis’ (fig. 12).37



The ex-Moscow version has been described as a ‘working proof’ that evolved over time,38 while the Rokeby version also underwent a series of alterations that suggest it was kept in the workshop and used over the years ‘as a trial piece for new variations of the composition’.39 As Joannides has written: ‘the Rokeby picture gives vivid testimony of the master at work from the 1550s through to the 1570s’.40 Indeed, X-radiography has revealed the composition’s complex genesis and compelling arguments have been put forward to suggest that the picture remained in the studio over a long period, during which the composition served as a working template (fig. 13).41 Discussing both pictures in 2013 Wivel wrote: ‘they were clearly brought to their present state of completion after the Prado picture, but their lay-ins surely predate it and must have been managed by the master.’42


After the completion of his picture for Philip, Titian produced large-scale variants, two of which stand out as being very close in quality, type and date: this one and the ex-Normanton canvas, now at the Getty Museum. Inferior to them both is the version at the National Gallery, London, generally considered to have been painted almost entirely by an assistant and dated about 1554–55 (fig. 14).43 After this date, apart from the reduced-scale versions based on the Farnese type now in Washington and New York discussed above (figs 8 and 9), there are two further canvases both from the 1560s ‘largely if not entirely workshop executed’:44 one in Rome at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini (the so-called Barberini version; fig. 19),45 and the other at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London.46 In both, Adonis is shown wearing a hunting hat.

‘da una rariss. pittura dell’unico M. Titiano’

Sanuto’s engraving

Between 1557 and 1559 Titian authorized two engravings of his design – one by an anonymous printmaker and another by the Venetian engraver Giulio Sanuto (fl. 1540–1588).47 Of all the versions of the composition, this painting corresponds most closely with the engraving by Sanuto, which is dated 21 September 1559 (fig. 15). The suggestion that Sanuto’s print was based on this version of the painting was first made in 1990 by Michael Bury and later developed by Wivel.48 Bury notes especially the form of the overturned jug, the bow and quiver hanging on the tree and the presence of a bird next to the sleeping Cupid’s foot. It is the presence of the dove – absent in the Prado version – that points to this painting as the source for the print (altered into an upright format), even though a lengthy inscription on the engraving claims that it records the composition painted for the King of Spain (‘da una rariss. pittura dell’unico M. Titiano, fatta dalla sua mano al sereniss. e catholico/ FILIPPO Re di Spagna’). As Dalla Costa points out, it seems likely that this claim was made to promote the prestige of the design, to diffuse its importance and to generate interest in it.49 Indeed, the print’s dependence on this version of the composition – engraved by Sanuto and sanctioned by Titian – bestows upon it the artist’s stamp of authority.


The History of the Painting

Past claims and new evidence

The existence of several versions of the Venus and Adonis composition presents significant difficulties in establishing provenances. This is compounded by the fact that many collections contained copies as well as originals of the same composition and descriptions and dimensions given in inventories cannot always be trusted. Matters are further complicated by the competing claims made in the past by this and the Getty painting for the line of provenance that runs uninterrupted between about 1600 and 1800 through some of Europe’s most prestigious collections. These include those of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II (1552–1612) in Prague; Queen Christina of Sweden (1626–1689) in Rome, who owned three versions of the composition; Livio Odescalchi (1658–1713), Duke of Bracciano and nephew of Pope Innocent XI, who had twelve versions, although only two were thought to be originals; and Philippe II, duc d’Orléans and regent of France (1674–1723), at the Palais Royal in Paris, where two paintings of this subject were described in 1757 by Dezailler d’Argenville, writing during the lifetime of Louis-Philippe (1725–1785), although no other mention is made of any version in inventories and descriptions between 1724 and 1785.

Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663–1736)


New information has recently come to light to support the claim that this version of Venus and Adonis belonged to Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663–1736), the great general and statesman of imperial Austria, in whose collection in Vienna it is recorded as hanging in the Gallery (‘Bilder-Saal’) of the Upper Belvedere. Prince Eugene of Savoy, a Field-Marshall in the service of three successive Habsburg emperors was one of the most successful military commanders of the 17th and 18th centuries, winning battles all over Europe against the Ottoman Turks in Austria and in the Balkans and alongside the Duke of Marlborough against the French in France, the Low Countries and Germany (fig. 16). He amassed a spectacular art collection, which was eventually displayed in the Upper Belvedere in Vienna following its completion in 1723. His picture collection, the substantial remnants of which are now housed in the Galleria Sabauda in Turin, spanned all the major schools of European painting.1 With his friend and rival Field-Marshall Johann Matthias von der Schulenberg, his predilection for Venetian paintings was influential on succeeding generations of collectors in the Habsburg domains.

A list of paintings drawn up on 24 October 1736, Inventaire des tableaux qui sont placé dans la gallerie du jardin, sent by Thomas Robinson, British Ambassador in Vienna, to Lord Harrington, Secretary of State, records as item 2: ‘Une Venus et Adone de Titien, hauteur 5 pieds 8 pouces, largeur 6 pieds 6 pouces’.2 The picture is also recorded the following year, in 1737, in the catalogue of Prince Eugene’s collection compiled after his death and known in a copy of 1783.3 The same dimensions for the work are given in both; these equate to 179 x 205 cm. and correspond closely with the picture under discussion. We are grateful to Cornelia Diekamp, who first drew attention to this provenance in 2005, for sharing her research into Prince Eugene’s picture gallery.


Visual evidence also supports these records. Between 1731 and 1740, Salomon Kleiner (1703–1761) published his Residences Memorables… de Son Altesse Serenissime Monseigneur Le Prince Eugene Francois Duc de Savoye et de Piemont, a series of etchings in ten parts illustrating the Belvedere estate in Vienna, showing interiors and exteriors of the palaces and gardens, including plans, sections, elevations and interiors of various rooms and parts of the garden. Kleiner’s engraving of 1734 of the Prince’s ‘Bildersaal’ in the Upper Belvdere documents the paintings on display in the Gallery. Included on the elevation of the east wall is the Venus and Adonis and although the depiction of the framed picture is relatively small, it shows its position in the hanging arrangement within the room (fig. 17). Furthermore, the details are sufficiently clear to be able to distinguish the composition’s salient characteristics and to propose with some confidence that it is this version. Adonis is bare-headed, both his shoulders are covered, the quiver hanging from the tree is cylindrical and the vessel in the left corner is tipped forwards, spilling its contents into the immediate foreground. As Queen Christina’s version is the only one of the large versions that shares these specific characteristics and was then in the collection of the duc d’Orleans, Prince Eugene’s version is almost certainly the present painting.

After Prince Eugene’s death, his niece Princess Maria Anna Victoria of Savoy-Carignan-Soissons (1683–1763) inherited the collection. It is probable that she sold the picture at an early date, most likely to Vittorio Amedeo of Savoy-Carignan (1690–1741), Prince Eugene’s younger cousin. There is no record of the Venus and Adonis ever arriving in Turin. The posthumous sale of the collection of Vittorio Amedeo, with whom Eugene had close ties, was held in Paris on 30 July 1742 and on subsequent days. The accompanying catalogue of the sale of ‘Monseigneur Le Prince de Carignan, Premier Prince du Sang de Sardaigne’ lists a Venus and Adonis by Titian that might be the same picture as the one in the Gallery of the Upper Belvedere, although its dimensions are inverted from those documented in the 1737 catalogue, presumably in error: ‘Un Tableau de six pieds de haut, sur cinq pieds huit pouces de large, qui réprésente Venus & Adonis, par Titien.’ (p. 26, lots unnumbered). One surviving copy of the sale catalogue is annotated ‘retiré a 4500’, which suggests the work was withdrawn;4 while an annotation in the margin of another copy states: ‘4700 à M. Gaillard de Gagny. revendu 2400’ and alongside this ‘à Avignon’, which may indicate where the painting went after it was next sold in 1762.5 A further sale was held the following year, and on 18 June 1743 the picture was reoffered: ‘Un Tableau de six pieds de haut, sur cinq pieds huit pouces de large, qui représente Venus & Adonis, par Titien.’ (p. 22, supplementary lot 3).6 Almost two decades later, on 29 March 1762, the picture resurfaces in the posthumous sale of the collection of Emmanuel-Jacques Gaillard de Gagny (1703–1759), Receveur Général des Finances de Grenoble, which takes place in Paris. De Gagny was evidently the buyer at the 1743 sale. Featuring prominently as lot 2, the picture is described as follows: ‘Titien Vecelli/ Un Tableau peint sur toile, de 6 pieds de haut, sur 5 pieds 8 pouces de large, representant Vénus retenant Adonis qui part pour la chasse. Il est inutile de chercher à relever l’estime qu’on ne peut refuser à ce Tableau; sa réputation est connue depuis long-tems. Il a fait partie de la riche Collection du Prince de Carignan, & il est resté jusqu’à la vente qui fut faite après le décès de ce Prince’.7 The dimensions given in the catalogue are still inverted. Gaillard de Gagny’s estate sale comprised not only paintings but also furniture, including pieces by Boulle; porcelain; jewellery; and a harpsichord by Hans Rucker. Besides the Titian, significant prices were achieved by paintings including his pair of portraits by Anthony van Dyck, one of which, depicting Susanna Fourment and her daughter datable to 1621, is today at the National Gallery of Art, Washington;8 and Gerard ter Borch’s Curiosityc. 1660–62, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.9

A marginal annotation in a copy of Gaillard de Gagny’s posthumous sale of 1762 reads: ‘2400–/ ..a Colinsla vendua MrNicolau deMontribloudDuc deRichelieua l’hotel deNassau[?]’.10 The painting’s passage between the collections of Gaillard de Gagny, ‘Nicolau de Montribloud’ and the Duc de Richelieu – whatever his role, if any, might have been in the transaction – is not entirely clear but there are good reasons for supposing that the provenances of two separate versions were conflated in error and Nicolau de Montibloud’s Venus and Adonis was a different picture altogether.11 The workshop version now at Dulwich came from France in the 1790s, which may have added to the confusion.12 In any case, later sources speak of a version that was in France and that belonged to Benjamin West by 1803, if not earlier. Where he might have acquired this picture is discussed below.13

Benjamin West PRA (1738–1820)


With the acquisition of the picture by Benjamin West PRA (1738–1820), the ownership history of the painting from the early 19th century onwards is secure and well documented and continues with no significant gaps until the present day. President of the Royal Academy, Historical Painter to the King of England, West was one of the most prominent figures in the art world of his day. American by birth, he settled in London at the age of 25 and quickly established himself. He was a Founder member of the Royal Academy and succeeded Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1792 as its second president (fig. 18). In 1805 he resigned briefly but was back at the helm within a year. As Allen Staley writes in his catalogue raisonné on West, ‘By the end of his life, he had a reputation not only as a painter, but also as a knowledgeable connoisseur, who was instrumental in shaping several important collections, and who had accumulated a considerable collection of his own’.14 Indeed, fellow artist and Royal Academician Joseph Farington (1747–1821) refers to West’s involvement with collectors and dealers throughout his detailed diaries.

In 1822 John Young, in his catalogue of the collection of Philip John Miles, M.P. (1774–1845), who later owned the Venus and Adonis, wrote that it was ‘for many years in the possession of Mr. West, the late President of the Royal Academy, who considered it one of the most perfect and beautiful works of the Master’. How West came to own the painting has met with contradictory explanations in the sources. The testimony of Sir Abraham Hume Bt (1748/49–1842) is important in this regard. Hume was ‘one of the most discerning connoisseurs of painting in Britain’;15 he formed a very fine collection and held the work of Titian in the highest esteem, writing the first book on Titian to be published in England, his ‘Notices of the Life and Works of Titian’ of 1829. There Hume introduced the notion that has proved persistent – although there is no evidence to substantiate it – that West’s large picture of Venus and Adonis came from the Orléans Gallery but was not offered for sale with the rest of that collection and instead was given as a present to West. Several letters written by the art dealer William Buchanan (1777–1864) between 25 February and 23 December 1804 argue against Hume’s assertion that West was given a version as payment for his help with the Orléans collection and suggest instead that West acquired his Venus and Adonis by other means.

It was ‘for many years in the possession of Mr. West, the late President of the Royal Academy, who considered it one of the most perfect and beautiful works of the Master’.

The William Buchanan Correspondence

Buchanan’s first letter to mention the picture is dated 25 February 1804 and is addressed to David Stewart, his agent in London, whom he charged with handling and selling all pictures consigned there from Italy. Buchanan thought that the West’s Venus and Adonis might have belonged to noted art collector William Beckford (1760–1844). In his letter he speculates that the picture was being sold by West on Beckford’s behalf. However, even though West is known to have acted as Beckford’s agent in the acquisition and sale of pictures, no evidence has come to light to substantiate this.16 Buchanan begins by referring to a lost letter of 21 February discussing the Balbi collection: ‘In that letter I likewise mentioned regarding the [Titian] Venus and Adonis, that unless it was very fine I should decline it, as West had last year on sale, or belonging to Beckford, the same subject, which he got from France, and which was infinitely superior to Angerstein’s [The National Gallery, London; fig. 14]17 […] I rather suspect the Titian was Beckford’s as I understand the Poussin belonged to him, and as Porter said he would have given West a large sum for the Titian if he would have sold it. Although it may not be in favour of my views that two copies of the same subject are already in this country,18 yet as I like the subject myself, I should wish you to purchase it, if it turns out to be a genuine Titian, and in good order, provided such purchase can be made on favourable terms say £500 £600 or £700 – or by exchange for the Raffaelles [2 Pictures] and some money. I think you mentioned that there was still a very fine one of the same subject in the Borghese [unidentified]19 – I think it would not be amiss for you to examine that, by way of a touch-stone in ascertaining the one you write of. […] Should any vessels be sailing from thence [Leghorn] for Leith, and you should secure the Venus and Adonis of Titian, I should prefer its being sent to me rather here than to London as I should have the studying it during summer before which time it cannot come, and probably the chance of selling it to Lord Wemyss, who likes such subjects much, and has lately I understand been giving large sums for very inferior pictures.’20

Two days later, on 27 February 1804, Buchanan writes again to Stewart in London: ‘I believe I mentioned to you that there was a duplicate of the Venus and Adonis of Titian on Sale in Rome at present, which had been lately brought from Venice. I should wish much to know what price West got for that in his possession last year which was very superior to Angerstein’s, or if it is still with him and what he values it at. If you can get a peep at it I think you will be gratified much as it is the finest and clearest Titian I ever saw, and gives one an excellent idea of the Master, besides it may be of use by way of comparison with that now in Rome should Irvine think it is an object worthy to send to this Country. Porter may be able to give you an idea of the price, and it may not be amiss to sound Porter what he would have given for that in West’s possession as he said to me he would give a great deal of money for it. You may hint to him there is another of the same subject still in Rome, equally fine, which you expect in this Country by Summer, but learn the price of the other first, and his ideas of it. You may likewise mention to him its being a subject which was four or five times repeated by Titian. There was one in France which is West’s [this lot] – one in the Colonna which is Angerstein’s – one in the Borghese palace at Rome and one at Venice, which is that now in Rome [possibly the ex Torlonia version, now in the Galleria Nazionale, Rome; fig. 19].21


Two months later, on 29 April, Buchanan writes again to Stewart asking for news of what became of West’s Venus and Adonis and what its price was.22 Not long after that, James Irvine (1759–1831), a painter and member of the Scottish aristocracy, who was operating as Buchanan’s agent in Rome, was able to acquire the Venus and Adonis from the Mariscotti Palace, which Buchanan later sold to Lord Darnley (now at the Metropolitan Museum, New York; fig. 9). West’s picture is mentioned for the last time on 23 December 1804 in relation to the latter, which is described as ‘a smaller picture than either Angerstein’s or West’s’.23

Where might West have acquired his version of Venus and Adonis? Buchanan writes that he got it from France without giving any more information. Someone as well informed as he would surely have known if West’s picture had come from the Orléans collection and would have referred to it as such. Kaylin Weber, to whom we are most grateful for her observations and for sharing with us her invaluable research on West’s collection, has suggested another possible scenario for the painting’s acquisition.24 Weber points out that West was very closely aligned with Bryan in the 1790s. West’s bank records reveal numerous payments to him and he had financial interests in paintings bought speculatively in France. Weber writes, ‘Knowing that Bryan was buying paintings from French collections from various sources and knowing West’s relationship with him, it is highly plausible that West acquired his Venus and Adonis from Bryan.’ The sale held in London at Bryan’s Gallery in Pall Mall on 19 May 1798 (the third day of the sale) included as lot 41: ‘Titian – Venus and Adonis. Titian has treated his favourite subject in this picture with unusual success. The design is grand and correct, and the expression of the heads most beautiful. It was brought to this country by a nobleman distinguished for taste, and is one of the finest pictures of this great master’. The sale catalogue does not record the picture’s dimensions and although the price it sold for is annotated in the margin – £152–5s. – the name of the buyer is not. Given that the catalogue states the picture had been brought from abroad, the possibility must be considered that this is the version acquired by West. This tallies with what we know from Buchanan. If so, just over a decade later the picture was sold for a great deal more money, the renown of its new owner no doubt adding to its lustre.


West’s Titian of Venus and Adonis proved to be a source of inspiration for his own work as a painter. It is highly likely that he held onto it for longer than Buchanan supposed and that he did not dispose of it in 1803 or 1804, the year of his speculations about West having it on sale and his attempts to track down information about it. In 1808 West created an unusually erotic picture, which pays homage to Titian’s Venus and Adonis composition: Cupid and Psyche, formerly at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and which centres on the pair of lovers embracing.25 The design’s emphatic placement in the foreground of the nude Psyche reaching for her lover and the incorporation of details such as winged putti and a pair of doves evoke corresponding motifs in Titian’s painting. West here made use of a square-format canvas, which is highly unusual in his œuvre; indeed, the picture’s large dimensions approach the scale and ambition of the Titian. This homage by West to the Venetian master gives additional weight to the idea that at this date the Venus and Adonis was still in his possession. West’s acquisition of the Titian may also have inspired his Adonis with his Dogs, dated 1800 and retouched in 1806 (Dayton Art Institute, Ohio; fig. 20), a smaller painting in which the blue collar of the hunting dog in the foreground is indubitably a nod to the same detail in Titian’s foremost hound.26 We are grateful to Nicholas Penny for this observation. Also, Adonis’ pose in the Dayton painting is clearly an homage to Titian’s Adonis.27 Significantly, West is recorded as having painted a copy of his Titian (untraced).28

In May 1809 West eventually sold his Venus and Adonis to Richard Hart Davis, MP (1766–1842) for £4,000, a huge sum that reflects the high regard in which this painting was held.29 Not only did Hart Davis come into contact with West over the Titian for his collection, he was also a buyer of his work. In 1810, after seeing West’s Christ Showing a Little Child as the Emblem of Heaven at the Royal Academy, he offered him 1,000 guineas for it;30 West was so struck by this sizeable sum, far in excess of the price he might have asked, that he accepted his offer. In his diary Farington describes West’s patron as ‘a very fortunate Commercial speculator’.31 As for West’s Titian, Hume is the first to report the very high price paid: ‘the late Mr. West, who sold it to Mr. Hart Davis, it is said for £4000’. At the time of writing, the picture was no longer the property of Hart Davis. Sometime before 1822 he had sold it together with much of his collection to fellow MP and business associate Philip John Miles, of Leigh Court, Bristol (‘Mr Mills’ of Leigh Court, according to Hume: a slip, as this should in fact read ‘Miles of Leigh Court’).

Philip John Miles (1774–1845)


A millionaire merchant and manufacturer, Philip John Miles (1774–1845) amassed a collection of just over 80 paintings displayed at Leigh Court, his newly built mansion not far from Bristol, in the west of England (fig. 21).32 Gustav Friedrich Waagen who visited there in 1835, wrote that the collection ‘would have done the highest honour to the palace of the greatest monarch in Europe’.33 Catalogued and illustrated with etchings by John Young, the collection was formed swiftly over the course of about a year, 1816, in order to furnish the reception rooms on the ground floor at Leigh Court. As well as both living in the Bristol area and having shared political and commercial interests – they were according to Farington, business partners – Miles and Richard Hart Davis (1766–1842) owned many of the same pictures in succession, the former, buying from the latter within the space of a few years. Having put together a collection of Old Masters, Hart Davis shifted his focus to contemporary British pictures, the acquisition of West’s Christ Showing a Little Child as the Emblem of Heaven being a case in point (see above). But by 1816 he was in dire financial difficulty and was obliged to sell Miles a large group of mainly Italian Old Master paintings. It is not known how much Miles paid Hart Davis for the pictures, there is no record of the transaction, nor is there a contemporary list but as Humfrey writes, ‘it cannot be excluded that as much as one half of the Miles collection came from him’.34


Among Miles’ most significant acquisitions were Domenichino’s Saint John the Evangelist (private collection, on loan to the National Gallery, London) from the Giustiniani collection in Rome; the Venus and Adonis, which had been sold to Hart Davis by West; and two of the most celebrated works in the collection, the so-called ‘Altieri Claudes’ (Anglesey Abbey, National Trust). They all hung together in the Saloon at Leigh Court. Other highly prized pictures that perhaps also came from Hart Davis included Raphael’s The Procession to Calvary (The National Gallery, London), Giorgione’s Adoration of the Magi (also National Gallery) – at the time considered to be by Bellini – and Rubens’ Holy Family with Saint Francis (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; fig. 22). The other main source of Miles’ acquisitions was the collection of the recently deceased Henry Hope (1735–1811). Illustrious provenances clearly held considerable attraction for Miles. Had the Venus and Adonis come from the Orléans collection, as was the case for other pictures at Leigh Court, this merit would surely have been mentioned by Young in his 1822 catalogue. Venus and Adonis remained in the collection of Miles’ descendants for three generations, until the death of Sir Cecil Miles, 3rd Bt (1873–1898), when the picture was consigned by his executors for sale at Christie’s on 11 May 1899.

Past claims now refuted: from Queen Christina to the ducs d’Orléans

As discussed above, Hume’s statement that West’s Venus and Adonis came from the Orléans Gallery but was not offered for sale with the rest of the collection cannot be substantiated. Hume is the only source to claim this;35 others simply say that it came from France. Probably Hume conflated a Venus and Adonis by Titian from the continent with that from the Orléans Collection. That two paintings of the same subject, perhaps of the same size and type, were sold by Bryan in the same year, 1798, may account for the confusion.

Now that it been established that in the early eighteenth century the picture belonged to Prince Eugene of Savoy, recent research also shows that past claims for this painting having passed from Queen Christina to the ducs d’Orléans are incorrect. The difficulties lie in the number and types of versions of Venus and Adonis in the collection of Queen Christina of Sweden in the seventeenth century; and the number and types of versions recorded in the collections of the ducs d’Orléans in the following century. Linking the two is the question of which pictures passed from Christina to the Odescalchi in Rome and then what was sold to Philippe II, duc d’Orleans.

Queen Christina acquired a Venus and Adonis by Titian that had previously been owned by the Emperor Rudolf II and which was seized by Swedish troops in Prague in 1648.36 Listed in the 1621 Prague inventory as an original by Titian, scholars have assumed this to be a large three-dog canvas.37 The 1621 inventory also includes two unattributed paintings of Venus and Adonis, both of which are described as copies. These also went to Stockholm and are listed in the inventory of Christina’s collection prepared by Raphaël Trichet du Fresne in 1652. All three are denoted as having come from Prague but the subject was misunderstood since the description in the Prague Castle inventory of about 1598 and all were misidentified as Joseph and Potiphar’s wife.38 In 1662, seven years after Queen Christina had arrived in Rome and was about to settle into Palazzo Riario, a more detailed inventory of her possessions was taken. According to this, the queen owned three versions of Venus and Adonis by or after Titian.39 There is no reason to doubt that all three had come from Prague. The posthumous inventory of her collection, taken in 1689–90 and the list of paintings inherited and then sold by Marchese Pompeo Azzolino to Prince Livio Odescalchi in 1692, indicate that the Queen was still in possession of three versions of Venus and Adonis. However, although the dimensions of two of the three listed in the 1689 inventory correspond with those in the earlier inventory of 1662, the dimensions of the large three-dog version shows a significant reduction.40 This discrepancy may be an error because such dimensions correspond to no other known version of Venus and Adonis.41 Although listings of 1697 and 1721 provide no dimensions, the versions are differentiated by their frames: the collection contained a version with a smooth frame, one with a carved frame and an unframed copy. From the inventory of 1689 we know that the large three-dog version had a ‘cornice liscia dorata’ and the small two-dog version had a frame ‘parte liscia, parte intagliata’. It seems likely that the same trio recorded in Prague in 1621, in Stockholm in 1652, in Rome in 1662 and in 1689 stayed together for about a century.

The identification of this picture with the painting of the same subject in the Orléans collection cannot be satisfactorily explained either. Here too there is insufficient evidence to prove that the Ducs d’Orléans owned more than one large-format version of the Venus and Adonis. There is no mention of multiple versions in Philippe II’s posthumous inventory of 1724, that of his son, Louis, duc d’Orléans of 1752, or that of his grandson Louis-Philippe of 1785. Furthermore, no Venus and Adonis by Titian of any size is included in either the 1727 or the 1737 editions of Dubois de Saint Gelais’ Description des Tableaux du Palais Royal.42

In the third edition of his Voyage Pittoresque published in 1757, Antoine-Nicolas Dezallier d’Argenville provides a list of the paintings on display in the Palais Royal in which he refers to two canvases of Venus and Adonis by Titian.43 The one in the ‘grand salon’ is identifiable with the Getty version, while the other in the ‘troisième pièce of the enfilade of the grand salon’ was engraved by Raphael Sadeler with some differences and this likely corresponds with a small two-dog version. Dezallier d’Argenville notes that the duc d’Orléans owned many other paintings which were not on display, so it is not impossible that he owned another large-format version on view elsewhere. But this seems highly improbable given that not long before this, Prince Eugene’s larger-format version had been recorded in Vienna and likely took a different path, appearing in Paris at auction in 1742, 1743 and 1762.

In early July 1720, a ‘M. Guilbert’, charged with surveying the Titians in the collection of the Queen of Sweden which the Duc d’Orleans was seeking to acquire from the Odescalchi family, wrote to Crozat from Rome. Regarding the Odescalchi Venus and Adonis he writes: ‘En effet, l’on en voit à Vienne chez Sa Majesté Impériale un très excellent original, et un autre dans cette ville-cy, apporté à la Maison Collonne [Colonna] par la dotte de Madame la Duchesse Salviati, et qui est de la plus sublime perfection dont ce grand Peintre ait été capable: aussi ce Tableau-là est-il fort supérieure à celuy-ci, quoique ce dernier soit merveilleux.’44


Visual evidence in the form of an engraving also argues against Orléans provenance for the version under discussion. The illustrated catalogue that was prepared of the Orléans collection shortly before the Revolution, Couché’s Galerie du Palais Royale of 1786, describes the Venus and Adonis and reproduces it with a detailed engraving by Delignon, which unmistakably shows the painting now at the Getty Museum (fig. 23). The dimensions of the Orléans painting given in 1786 of 5 pieds 7 pouces x 6 pieds 2 pouces are closer to this version of Venus and Adonis and have been used as an argument to bolster the case for identifying this as the Orléans painting; however, the Getty painting has been cut on all sides and estimates of its original size correspond with Couché’s dimensions. Indeed, the engraving shows a more expansive composition than can be seen in the Getty painting today. The subsequent passages of its ownership are clear: it shares the same history as the other Orléans paintings that were put on sale as part of the Orléans Collection by a syndicate consisting of the Duke of Bridgewater, the Earl of Carlisle and the Duke of Sutherland. In December 1798 it was exhibited as no. 224 in Bryan’s Gallery at the Lyceum on The Strand in London and from there it was acquired by Mr FitzHugh for 300 guineas, not a particularly high price given its pedigree, and later entered the collection of the Earl of Normanton, at Somerley, Hampshire.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Olof Granberg writing on the fate of the picture gallery of Queen Christina from its origin to the present day, was able to disentangle the two versions. In his entry on the Orléans painting bought by FitzHugh now at the Getty, listing compositions similar to it, he includes the painting under discussion and gives its owner as Sir William Miles at Leigh Court, and although by that date he was no longer alive, the painting was still in the possession of his descendant, his great-grandson Sir Cecil Miles, 3rd Bt (1873–1898).

Earliest provenance – a possible patron

This version of Venus and Adonis has been proposed as one of three possible candidates for the only documented version of the Venus and Adonis painted by Titian after 1554, namely that commissioned by Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle (1517–1586).45 Titian refers to it in a letter to Granvelle, datable between 11 November 1554 and the beginning of June 1555, in reply to a lost letter from Granvelle in which he requested ‘una coppia di quella poesia di Venere’. Titian says, ‘mi missi ad ordine di principiarlo, né ho mai cessado fino non gli habbia dato speditione et inviatolo a Vosta Signoria, havendovi usato quella diligentia et amore atorno che merita l’afetione ch’io porta alla bontà et cortesia…’.46 A celebrated art collector, Granvelle was one of the most influential statesmen of his time, Chief Minister to Philip II and a powerful figure in the Roman Catholic Church, having been made a cardinal in 1561 by Pope Pius V. Titian painted his portrait in 1548 (The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; fig. 24).47


As a well-informed patron and one of Philip’s most important courtiers, Granvelle wanted a painting that reflected the design of Philip’s picture but whether ‘coppia’ denotes an autograph copy, or a copy by Titian and his studio or a copy by his studio remains unclear. Although there is no evidence the painting was delivered to Granvelle, there is no reason to doubt that Titian would not have finished the commission. The version for Granvelle is likely to have been of the large three-dog type. Joannides and Turner have suggested three possible candidates among the surviving large-format examples of the design that may have been painted for him: this Venus and Adonis; the canvas at the Getty (fig. 2); or the painting formerly in Moscow that came to light in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (fig. 11).48 They argue in favour of the ex-Moscow painting being the best candidate, as in their view both this version and the Getty painting seem on stylistic grounds to be a little later than 1555.49 However it is not known when Granvelle’s picture was delivered and it may be that it was sent to the patron a few years later (perhaps in 1556 or 1557). This would increase the interval between when the picture was begun – probably a few years before the Prado version – and its delivery. Nothing is known about the provenance of the ex-Moscow painting before 2005. The possibility cannot be excluded that the present lot was painted for Granvelle. His collection eventually passed to Emperor Rudolf but it has not been possible to establish which of the versions belonged to him.

The inscription on Sanuto’s engraving may offer a final clue as to a possible patron. Dated 21 September 1559, it carries a dedication to an Alberto Utiner. Also mentioned in the inscription is his brother Girolamo, about whom nothing is known.50 Bury notes that a Zorzi Utiner – a German merchant from Augsburg, whose name in the German form was Uttinger – was recorded in 1532 by the Venetian diarist Marino Sanuto.51 In 1517, 1539 and 1540 he was consul of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, the headquarters for German merchants in Venice. Another Zorzi Utiner, son of Alberto, also a merchant at the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, was recorded in a notarial act dated 27 August 1610 as fifty years old, which places the year of his birth just after Sanuto’s print. Although it has not been possible to trace either Alberto or Girolamo Utiner, these names point to possible networks of patronage. It remains to be determined which individual succeeded in obtaining this version of one of Titian’s most highly sought-after compositions.

We are grateful to Paul Joannides for making available his extensive research on the provenances of the recorded versions of Titian’s Venus and Adonis.

Maximilian von Heyl zu Herrnsheim (1844–1925)

Maximilian von Heyl zu Herrnsheim (1844–1925) and his older brother Cornelius Wilhelm Heyl zu Herrnsheim (1843–1923) were both avid collectors. Cornelius housed his collection in the neo-Baroque palace Heylshof in Worms, where much of it remains today. Both formed friendships with painters of the Munich School such as Wilhelm von Kaulbach and Franz von Lenbach and collected their works – there were fifteen Lenbachs and three Kaulbachs in Maximilian’s posthumous sale in 1930. Maximilian’s wife Dorothea (Doris) sat to Kaulbach (fig. 11), and Cornelius and his wife Sophie sat to Lenbach, and it was Lenbach who apparently advised Maximilian on his acquisition of the Titian Venus and Adonis (in common with many other German collectors of his time, Maximilian was also helped by Wilhelm von Bode). Both brothers’ collections encompassed sculpture, works of art, furniture and tapestries as well as 19th Century and Old Master Paintings. Among the latter were Italian gold-ground and Renaissance paintings, Spanish, Early Netherlandish and Dutch and Flemish Golden Age paintings.

The provenance of Titian’s Venus and Adonis between 1930 and 1966

When this painting was offered at auction in 1998, its prior ownership by Carl W. Buemming and Philipp F. Reemtsma raised questions, because both were complicated individuals, whose activities between 1933 and 1945 in Germany have been subject of adverse comment.52 Recent research has shown continuous provenance from von Heyl to Reemtsma (with Buemming acting as a broker) which excludes that the work could have been displaced due to persecution during this period. This painting is not recorded as a WW II loss on the relevant lists and databases of losses, including the Art Loss Register.

The 1930 auction

Following the death of Maximilian von Heyl zu Herrnsheim’s widow Doris in early 1930, the painting was included in the posthumous sale of Freiherr Maximilian von Heyl zu Herrnsheim (1844–1925) at the auction house Hugo Helbing in Munich on 28 and 29 October 1930 with an expertise from art historian Detlev von Hadeln (1878–1935); see fig. 12.53 The painting, offered as lot 144, was unsold.54

The von Heyl Estate

After the auction in Munich the painting remained in the Estate of Doris von Heyl zu Herrnsheim in Darmstadt. On 19 June 1935 the Estate was in touch with Professor Dr. Georg Swarzenski (1876–1957), then director of the Städelsche Kunstinstitut (now Städel Museum) in Frankfurt, who had written the catalogue of the collection of Maximilian’s brother Cornelius that was housed in the Heylshof in Worms. The correspondence refers to the two Titians – Venus and Adonis and Portrait of Gabriel Tadino – in the estate and the related expertise of the deceased Professor Detlev von Hadeln.55 At some point in the 1930s the Estate must have commissioned Darmstadt art dealer Carl W. Buemming to sell the painting. According to correspondence in the von Heyl family archive the Estate had good relationships with the dealer, who lived in the same city and offered art works, ranging from Old Master paintings, drawings, prints and books to them and also sold on their behalf at auction from the 1930s until the late 1950s.56 Carl W. Buemming was an American art dealer born to German emigrants in Milwaukee in 1889. He moved to Darmstadt in 1898 and later became an antiquarian book dealer – first as a partner in the Schlapp Bookstore and on his own account from 1933. As a US citizen he was able to move freely between occupied France and Germany, and presumably to and from Switzerland, since he was also the German partner of the Swiss auctioneer Theodor Fischer. On 11 September 1944, Buemming’s gallery in Darmstadt was hit in an air raid, and his warehouse, archives and private collection were destroyed. He moved back to the USA after World War II but, in 1952, returned to Darmstadt and took German citizenship. He died in 1963.

On 16 June 1941 Buemming offered the painting without success to the art historian and special envoy for the Sonderauftrag Linz Dr. Hans Posse (1879–1942) in Dresden, mentioning ‘the painting by Titian: Venus and Adonis, which comes from the von Heyl collection.’57 Shortly afterwards Buemming must have sold the painting: correspondence between the Estate of Doris von Heyl and Ludwig Freiherr von Heyl zu Herrnsheim on 19 August 1941 discusses objects that are still in the Estate and refers to ‘Mr Buemming, Darmstadt, through whom the Titian picture was sold.’58

Thus the painting remained in the collection of Maximilian von Heyl zu Herrnsheim, his widow and his widow’s Estate from before 1930, and probably by 1904, until 1941. The von Heyl zu Herrnsheim family and their Estate were not persecuted during the time of the Third Reich, nor was any sale by them directed by the Government.

Philipp F. Reemtsma (1893–1959)

The painting was eventually acquired by collector and heir to a thriving Hamburg cigar company, Philipp F. Reemtsma (1893–1959). Reemtsma identified the business opportunity that branded cigarettes presented and turned his family firm into a monolith that dominated the pre-Second World War German tobacco marketplace. Between the mid-1920s and 1940 Reemtsma built an important art collection that included Chinese ceramics, painting and sculpture. He bought both from dealers and at auction and his collection is known to have included several pieces that had been previously lost by Jewish collectors through persecution. Whether Reemtsma acquired the painting directly from Buemming or via an agent remains unclear but according to the literature the painting was acquired by him in 1940/41.59


The painting first hung in Reemtsma’s Bavarian estate Landgut Puchhof. After the war most of his collection at Puchhof was handed over to the Munich Central Collecting Point (MCCP), a collection centre for art that the American Forces’ Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Service (MFA&A Service) had set up in the former National Socialist Party building in Munich.60 The Titian Venus and Adonis was one of the few artworks from Puchhof that did not have to be handed over to the Collecting Point, presumably because, unlike most of his collection, Reemtsma had not acquired it in the Netherlands, so the authorities were not interested.61 The painting was sent back to Hamburg.62 Here it found a place in Landgut Trenthorst, Reemtsma’s modern country estate near Lübeck (fig. 25).63 The Titian passed by inheritance to his widow, Gertrud Reemtsma (née Zülch) and stayed in the collection until at least 1966.64 It is not known what happened to the Venus and Adonis between Gertrud Reemtsma’s death in 1966 and its acquisition by Patrick de Charmant from Edmund Kraatz in Hamburg in 1984, but it is reasonable to suppose that it remained in Hamburg or environs.


Catalogue essay

1 Venus’ attempt to restrain Adonis features in Niccolò degli Agostini’s poetic interpretation of the Metamorphoses, first published in 1522, a text which Titian may well have known. See Dalla Costa 2019, p. 125.

2 In Metamorphoses, her tears cause red anemones to grow from his blood.

3 P000422; oil on canvas, 186 x 207 cm. https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/venus-and-adonis/bc9c1e08-2dd7-44d5-b926-71cd3e5c3adb

4 The heading ‘Love · Desire · Death’ is borrowed from the aptly named subtitle of the exhibition held at the National Gallery, London (16 March – 20 December 2020).

5 Wivel 2013, p. 114.

6 Turner and Joannides 2016, pp. 48–76. The authors apply a literary analogy to differentiate between compositions of three different sizes: ‘octavo’, ‘quarto’ and ‘folio’; the present work, part of the group of largest format, is a ‘folio’ version. TSR report no. 20220712; available on request.

7 Object no. 92.PA.42; oil on canvas, 161.9 x 198.4 cm. The painting has been cut on all sides. Its original size has been estimated as 172 x 213 cm.; see U. Birkmaier, A. Wallert and A. Rothe, ‘Technical Examinations of Titian’s ‘Venus and Adonis’: A Note on Early Italian Oil Painting Technique’, in A. Wallert, E. Hermens, and M. Peek (eds), Historical Painting Techniques, Materials, and Studio Practice. Preprints of a Symposium, University of Leiden, the Netherlands, 26–29 June 1995, Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, 1995, pp. 117–26

8 For a detailed discussion on how the two may have been painted side by side, see Dalla Costa 2019, pp. 157–77.

9 Dalla Costa 2019 (see under Literature), especially pp. 127–77.

10 M. Falomir, ‘Poésias’ in Tiziano, M. Falomir (ed.), exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 10 June – 7 September 2003, p. 241 (Spanish) and p. 390 (English); and in an oral communication to Thomas Dalla Costa on 28 January 2015; see Dalla Costa 2019, pp. 127 and 129.

11 This was an attributional upgrade from the caption given to it in the German, English and Italian editions of the exhibition catalogue as ‘Titian and workshop’. The painting was also lent to the second venue of the exhibition at the Palazzo Reale, Milan (23 February – 29 May 2022). Vienna and Milan 2021–22, no. 72.

12 Belluno 2007–8, no. 74 (p. 393: ‘the presentation of the painting in the exhibition serves to readdress an extremely delicate and thorny question of attribution […] involving the problem of the interaction between autograph and workshop pieces’); at the Ashmolean the work was labelled as studio of Titian; the longer gallery text produced in 2006 by curator Catherine Whistler for visitor information discussed high quality passages and revisions that suggest Titian’s hand is there in parts, including probably the head of Adonis and parts of the landscape.

13 Dalla Costa 2019; see under Literature.

14 Dalla Costa in Vienna 2021, p. 305 (English ed.).

15 TSR report no. 20220712.

16 Dalla Costa 2019, p. 167.

17 G. Poldi in Belluno and Pieve di Cadoro 2007, pp. 205–7; see also Dalla Costa 2019, p. 167 n. 382.

18 NG 34; see TSR report no. 20220712, p. 18; see also Dunkerton and Spring 2015, vol. 36, cat. 3, p. 60, figs 110 and 111.

19 The Getty Cupid has a lower wing position, which might offer a clue to the sequence of work and perhaps suggest its design developed after this version.

20 Falomir and Joannides 2014–15, p. 48 (Spanish) and p. 70 (English).

21 TSR report no. 20220712, pp. 1, 4, 6, 8, 12, 17 and 19.

22 Dunkerton, Mozo, Pocobene and Spring in London 2020, p. 61.

23 Dunkerton and Spring 2015, vol. 36, p. 59, fig. 109; and Dunkerton, Mozo, Pocobene and Spring in London 2020, p. 61 and p. 211 n. 4. For double-width canvases Titian is known to have used canvases woven with complex damask or point twill weaves, see for example the The Vendramin Family, National Gallery, London (NG 4452), Penny 2008, pp. 206, 210.

24 E. Mora ‘The restoration of Titian’s Danaë and Venus and Adonis’, in Dánae y Venus y Adonis, las primeras ‘poesías’ de Tiziano para Felipe II, exh. cat., Museo del Prado, Madrid, 2014–15, published as a special issue of the Boletín del Museo del Prado, 2014, pp. 74–75 (English).

25 Rearick 1996, see in particular p. 40.

26 See also Mora’s discussion about the vertical cracks revealed by X-radiography, in Madrid 2014, p. 74.

27 London 2020, p. 195; see also p. 217.

28 Brown in London 2020, p. 50, reproduced on p. 49, fig. 21.

29 Madrid 2003, p. 390.

30 Falomir in Madrid 2003, p. 390.

31 MIN0001; watercolour on vellum, 18 x 21.5 cm.; reproduced in colour in London 2020, p. 126, fig. 99; see also pp. 127 and 214, nn. 12 and 13.

32 GG 54; oil on canvas, 96 x 118 cm.

33 Acc. no. 1942.9.84; oil on canvas, 106.8 x 136 cm.

34 Acc. no. 49.7.16; oil on canvas, 106.7 x 133.4 cm.

35 London 2020, pp. 127–28. In both, Adonis carries a staff or javelin in his right hand. Turner and Joannides have shown that Titian continued to use this version of the composition late into his career; see Turner and Joannides 2016, pp. 51, 55–56.

36 175.5 x 198 cm. V. Markova, ‘Una nuova versione della Venere e Adone di Tiziano. Notizie storico artistiche’, Una nuova versione della Venere e Adone di Tiziano, exh. cat., Gallerie dell’Accademia, 10 December 2007 – 7 January 2008, p. 12 ff., reproduced in colour on pp. 10–11. The picture first came to light in an anonymous sale at Schmitz & Laurent, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 29 May 2005, lot 32 (as Venetian school, c. 1600).

37 National Trust, on loan from the Cobbe Collection (acc. no. 476); oil on canvas, 143.5 x 183.5 cm., reduced at the top. On the Rokeby Venus and Adonis, see Turner and Joannides 2016.

38 Wivel in London 2020, pp. 128–29 and p. 214 n. 22. Not having seen the picture in person, Wivel reserves judgement as to its attribution, ‘notably the extent to which the workshop may have been involved in its execution as well as its state of conservation’. The ex-Moscow version is discussed in Falomir and Joannides 2014–15, pp. 34–36 (Spanish) and p. 67 (English). For a reproduction of the X-ray, see Turner and Joannides 2016, p. 56, fig. 9.

39 Dunkerton and Spring 2015, vol. 36, pp. 58–59.

40 Turner and Joannides 2016, p. 70.

41 For an image of the X-ray marked up diagrammatically to indicate the multiple changes, see Turner and Joannides 2016, p. 58, figs 11a and 11b; see also Cobbe 2019, pp. 65–74; and Wivel in London 2020, p. 129.

42 Wivel 2013, p. 114: ‘Both paintings are damaged and the latter is unfinished, so it is hard to determine to what extent Titian himself was involved in their execution.’

43 NG 34; oil on canvas, 177.9 x 188.9 cm. Penny 2008, pp. 274–91, reproduced in colour (as workshop of Titian).

44 Wivel in London 2020, p. 130.

45 187 x 184 cm. Turner and Joannides 2016, p. 65, reproduced p. 67, fig. 22 (as Titian studio).

46 183 x 190 cm.; Turner and Joannides 2016, p. 65, reproduced p. 68, fig. 23: ‘[…] believed to be a later copy until conservation showed it to be a studio production executed with 16th-century pigments.’

47 This in turn generated a number of unauthorized reproductive prints; see Wivel 2013.

48 Bury 1990, pp. 11–12 and 43, with arguments for Titian being directly involved in the engraving’s production; see also Wivel 2013, pp. 113–27.

49 Dalla Costa 2019, pp. 137–44.

The History of the Painting

1 Under Literature, see Diekamp 2005 and Diekamp in Turin 2007, Vienna 2010 and Milan 2012.

2 Comoglio in Milan 2012, p. 286.

3 Diekamp in Vienna 2010, p. 135, no. 2: ‘Hoch 5 S. 8 Z. Breit 6 S. 6 Z. [178.8 x 205.2 cm.] and p. 137.

4 L559, Philadelphia Museum of Art.

5 L559, RKD, The Hague.

6 L581; no price or buyer’s name is annotated on the copy held at the RKD.

7 ‘Tiziano Vecellio/ A picture painted on canvas, 6 feet high, 5 feet 8 inches wide, representing Venus holding back Adonis who leaves for the hunt. It is useless to seek to raise the esteem that this Painting demands; its reputation has been known for a long time. It was part of the rich Collection of the Prince of Carignan, and it remained until the sale which was held after the death of this Prince.’

8 https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.55.html

9 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/435714

10 L1206, RKD. Pierre Nicolau, alderman and treasurer of the town of Lyon, owned the seigneurie of Montribloud from 1754 onwards.

11 The annotations in the sale catalogue seem to have been made in the first and perhaps the second quarter of the 19th century since they take the history of at least one painting past 1813; therefore, as they are in part second hand they may not be fully trustworthy. Nicolau de Montribloud’s own sale in Paris on 9 February 1784 (L3673) included a large-format Venus and Adonis but the dimensions given in the catalogue, lot 2 – ‘hauteur 5 pieds 10 pouces, largeur 5 pieds 8 pouces’ – are of a markedly squarer format and differ from those of Gaillard de Gagny’s picture. Just a few years later, on 10 March 1788, a picture of identical size was offered in Paris at the posthumous sale of Mme Jacques Lenglier (L4280), lot 69: ‘hauteur 5 pieds 10 pouces, largeur 5 pieds 8’; its catalogue description traces a different provenance (Charles I and Jabach) to the Gagny painting, which suggests they were indeed two different pictures.

12 https://www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk/explore-the-collection/201-250/venus-and-adonis/

13 There is no mention of a ‘Venus and Adonis’ in the Duc de Richelieu’s posthumous sale held on 18 December 1788 (L4369, RKD).

14 Von Erffa and Staley 1986, p. 20.

15 N. Penny on Hume in ‘Appendix of Collectors’ Biographies’, in Penny 2008, p. 458; and pp. 458–61.

16 See also J. Chapel, ‘William Beckford: Collector of Old Master Paintings, Drawings and Prints’, in D.E. Ostergard (ed.), William Beckford, 17601844: A Eye for the Magnificent, New Haven and London, 2001–2, pp. 229–40, 239 and 247.

17 The picture now catalogued as Workshop of Titian at the National Gallery, London.

18 In fact there were three: West’s Venus and Adonis (this lot); Angerstein’s picture now at the National Gallery; and the painting bought by FitzHugh from the Orléans sale.

19 This may be an error for Barberini.

20 Brigstocke 1982, Letter 27, pp. 148 and 149.

21 Brigstocke 1982, Letter 28, p. 153. Palazzo Barberini, Galleria Nazionale, Rome, Inv. 922; oil on canvas, 187 x 134 cm.; see Cristina di Svezia. Le collezioni reali, exh. cat., Rome 2003, pp. 164–66, no. 49.

22 Brigstocke 1982, Letter 58, p. 286.

23 Brigstocke 1982, Letter 81, p. 361.

24 K.H. Weber, The studio and collection of the ‘American Raphael’: Benjamin West, PRA (1738–1820), University of Glasgow, PhD thesis, 2013; email communication, 14 June 2022.

25 Von Erffa and Staley 1986, p. 243, no. 152; sold at Christie’s, New York, on 28 January 2009, lot 43: https://www.christies.com/lot/lot-5175829?ldp_breadcrumb=back&intObjectID=5175829&from=salessummary&lid=1

26 1982.3; oil on canvas, 51.1 x 35.9 cm.; Von Erffa and Staley 1986, p. 227, no. 114.

27 Dalla Costa 2019, p. 256.

28 Von Erffa and Staley 1986, pp. 448–49, no. 521. This is listed in one of the posthumous sales of his collection, the Robins sale held in London on 20–22 June 1829, lot 95 as ‘Venus and Adonis, a splendid copy from the celebrated picture of Titian in the Collection of Mr. Miles.’

29 Von Erffa and Staley 1986, p. 343, under no. 328 and pp. 448–49 under no. 521. Email communication with Allen Staley, 31 March 2022.

30 Von Erffa and Staley 1986, pp. 342–43, no. 328.

31 J. Farington, The Diary of Joseph Farington, K. Cave (ed.), New Haven and London, 1982, vol. X, p. 3676, entry 27 June 1810.

32 We are indebted to Peter Humfrey for his account of the collection of Philip John Miles; Humfrey 2020, pp. 8–29.

33 Waagen 1838, vol. III, pp. 134–35.

34 Humfrey 2020, p. 15.

35 Wethey 1975, p. 191, no. 42, no. 6.

36 The inventory of the Swedish war booty from Prague drawn up by Hans Christoffer von Königsmarck in 1648 lists five versions of Venus and Adonis attributed to Titian: nos 412, 427, 432, 459 and 654; O. Granberg, Drottning Kristinas tafvelgalleri på Stockholms slott och i Rom, dess uppkomst och dess öden ända till våra dagar, Stockholm 1896, Appendix I, pp. 76, 77 and 81.

37 Prague Castle inventory, 6 December 1621, no. 1054, ‘Venus und Adonus vom Ticiano. Orig.’ in H. Zimmermann, ‘Das Inventar der Prager Schatz- und Kunstkammer vom 6. Dezember 1621’, Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des Allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses, Vienna, vol. XXV, 1905, p. XLIII.

38 A. Geffroy, Notices et extraits des manuscrits concernant l’histoire ou la littérature de la France qui sont conservés dans les bibliothèques ou archives de Suède, Danemark et Norvège, Paris 1855, under ‘Inventaire des raretez qui sont dans le Cabinet des antiquités de la Sérénissime reine de Suede’, 1652, pp. 120–93, in particular pp. 169, 174 and 176.

39 1662 inventory: 1) A large one, with three dogs, dimensions given as 8 1/2 palmi high by 9 palmi wide (187 x 198 cm.); 2) A small one with two dogs, dimensions given as 7 palmi high by 5 palmi wide (156 x 117 cm.), upright in orientation; and 3) a reduction, explicitly described as a copy of the three-dog version, dimensions given as 3 palmi high by 2 3/4 palmi wide (67 x 61 cm.).

40 1689 inventory: Archivio Palatino, Modena, Catalogo dei quadri della regina di Sveziacirca 1689: no. 17: ‘Un altro quadro di una Venere ignuda in schiena in atto di abbracciare Adone, che sta in piè con cani alla mano sinistra, e tiene con la destra un dardo in atto d’andare a caccia con un Amore che dorme sotto un arbore, e bellissimo paese; figure grandi al naturale di Tiziano, in tela a giacere alta palmi sei e mezzo e larga palmi otto con cornice dorata alla romana.’; no. 158: ‘Una Venere ignuda in schiena in atto di abbracciare Adone che sta in piedi con cani alla mano sinistra, e tiene alla mano destra un dardo in atto di andare a caccia, figure di mezzo naturale, opera di… in tela in piedi alta p.mi cinque e un quarto, larga p.mi quattro e due terzi, con cornice parte intagliata, parte liscia, tutta dorata’; and no. 153: ‘Un quadro d’una Venere ignuda in schiena, in atto di abbracciare Adone, che sta in piedi con cani alla mano sinistra, e tiene con la destra un dardo in atto d’andare a caccia con un amore che dorme sotto l’arbore, con paese in tela in piedi, opera di… alta p.mi tre e larga p.mi dui e due terzi, senza cornice’.

41 Wethey believed its dimensions were transcribed inaccurately in the 1689 inventory; Wethey 1975, p. 192, under Item 2.

42 On the collection, see The Orléans Collection, V.I. Schmid (ed.) with J.I. Armstrong-Totten, exh. cat., New Orleans 2018.

43 A.-N. Dezailler d’Argenville, Voyage Pittoresque de Paris…, 3rd ed., Paris 1757, pp. 90 and 92.

44 Montaiglon 1887–1912, vol. V, 1895, p. 341; ‘Indeed, one sees in Vienna at his Imperial Majesty’s a most excellent original, and another in this city [Rome], which has come to the Colonna with the dowry of the duchessa Salviati and which is of the most sublime perfection of which this great painter is capable: also that one is far superior to this one [Odescalchi], although the latter is marvellous.’

45 Falomir and Joannides 2014–15, p. 47 (Spanish) and p. 70 (English); see also Turner and Joannides 2016, p. 62.

46 L. Puppi (ed.), Tiziano: L’episolario, Florence 2012, no. 180, p. 215.

47 No. 30-15; oil on canvas, 111.3 x 88.3 cm.

48 Anonymous sale, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, Schmitz & Laurent, 29 May 2005, lot 32 (as Venetian school, c. 1600).

49 Turner and Joannides, 2016, p. 62.

50 Wivel 2013, p. 119; on the print, its inscription and the possible identities of Girolamo Uttinger and a ‘Zorzi’ (Giorgio/ George) Utiner, see Dalla Costa 2019, pp. 142–43.

51 Bury 1990, p. 43.

52 https://www.spiegel.de/kultur/verwirrende-venus-a-7b47c702-0002-0001-0000-000007934312

53 Auc.cat. Helbing, Munich, 28 October 1930, lot 144, reproduced pl. VI: https://doi.org/10.11588/diglit.5699https://doi.org/10.11588/diglit.59060#0041

54 Whether the painting remained unsold or was withdrawn is not certain. From the annotated hand copy of the auction house, it appears the painting remained unsold and was bought back at the highest bid of 65,000 (copy Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich: https://doi.org/10.11588/diglit.59060#0041). The lots that sold in the auction are listed with a price and with a name next to them whereas the painting in question is listed with a price only. A list of achieved prices in a copy of the auction catalogue at the RKD (Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie), The Hague, confirms that the painting in question may have remained unsold as it is not listed (auc. cat. Helbing, Munich 28 October 1930, Pricelist, copy RKD (Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, The Hague). The painting in question does not, however, appear in a listing from the von Heyl archive, which refers to objects that remained unsold in the Helbing auction (Stadtarchiv Worms, Abt.186, Nr.404. list attached to a letter from Ludwig von Heyl to Herrn Sydikus Lahm from the estate, dated 6 May 1933).

55 Archiv Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main. Nachlass Freifrau Dr. von Heyl Darmstadt an Professor Dr. Swarzenski, dated Worms, 19.06.1935, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, received: 22.06.1935. Here the Estate writes: ‘Unter höflicher Bezugnahme auf die Unterredung, die ich mit Ihnen am letzten Montag hatte, übersende ich Ihnen in der Anlage Abschriften der Gutachten, die der verstorbene Professor Herr Baron v. Hadeln über die beiden im Nachlass befindlichen Tizianbilder ‘Venus und Adonis’ und ‘Bildnis des Gabriel Tadino’ erstattet hat’. On 4 December the executor writes to Swarzensky again, referring to the matter they talked about in the summer the same year; the letter is stamped as next in sequence from above (Archiv Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main. Nachlass Freifrau Dr. von Heyl Darmstadt to Professor Dr. Swarzenski).

56 Familienarchiv von Heyl, Stadtarchiv Worms, Abt.185, Nr.318. Correspondence kept in the von Heyl zu Herrnsheim archive reveals that Carl Buemming maintained close contacts with the family until as late as 1956.

57 Bundesarchiv Koblenz (B323, Akte 131, S. 191 (Blatt 438–439). Letter notes: ‘Bei der Gelegeheit frage ich gleichseitig an, ob Sie evntl. Interessiert sind an dem Erwerb jenes Gemäldes von Tizian: Venus und Adonis darstellend, welches aus der Sammlung des Baron von Heyl stammt.’

58 Familenarchiv von Heyl, Stadtarchiv Worms, Abt.186, Nr. 404. Letter notes: ‘Photographien kann ich Ihnen leider nicht mehr geben; die letzten hat Herr Buemming, Darmstadt bekommen, durch dessen Vermittlung das Tizianbild verkauft wurde […].’

59 Reuther 2006, p.154; Auc.cat. Christie’s, London, 10 July 1998, lot 62.

60 https://www.dhm.de/datenbank/ccp/dhm_ccp.php?seite=10&lang=en.

61 Reuther 2006, p. 51.

62 Reuther 2006, pp. 15, 52, 142 and 145.

63 Reuther 2006, p. 27.

64 Reuther 2006, p. 154.

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