Galleria Borghese logo
Search results for
No results :(

Hints for your search:

  • Search engine results update instantly as soon as you change your search key.
  • If you have entered more than one word, try to simplify the search by writing only one, later you can add other words to filter the results.
  • Omit words with less than 3 characters, as well as common words like "the", "of", "from", as they will not be included in the search.
  • You don't need to enter accents or capitalization.
  • The search for words, even if partially written, will also include the different variants existing in the database.
  • If your search yields no results, try typing just the first few characters of a word to see if it exists in the database.

Venus crowned by Cupid

Cesari Giuseppe called Cavalier d'Arpino

(Arpino 1568 - Rome 1640)

As critics have suggested, the painting became part of the Borghese collection after Pope Paul V ordered the seizure of works by Cavalier d'Arpino, in 1607. The composition shows Venus sensually stretched out on a red drapery, in the company of Cupid who is placing a crown of flowers on her head. To her right, beyond a window sill where two white doves are perched – one of the goddess’ typical attributes – is a beautiful landscape of dense vegetation in subtle vivid hues.

Object details

prima del 1607
oil on canvas
cm 82 x 112,5

20th century frame (111 x 138.5 x 5 cm)


(?) Rome, Giuseppe Cesari, called Cavalier d'Arpino, ante 1607 (De Rinaldis, 1936, p. 112); (?) Rome, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, 1607; Rome, Borghese Collection, 1650 (Manilli, 1650, p. 98); Inv. 1693, room VI, no. 24; Inv. 1790, room VI, no. 17; Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, p. 25; purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

  • 1996-1997, Lecce, Fondazione Memmo;
  • 2000-2001 Colonia, Walraf Richartz Museum;
  • 2001 Monaco, Alte Pinakothek;
  • 2001 Anversa, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten;
  • 2003-2004 Bruxelles, Palais des Beaux-Arts;
  • 2009 Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art;
  • 2010 Tokyo, Metropolitan Art Museum.
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 2000 ABACUS s.n.c. (pulitura, rimozione della vernice, stuccature e reintegrazioni pittoriche);
  • 2003 Andrea Parri (restauro della cornice).


The painting was most likely part of painter Giuseppe Cesari’s collection, seized in 1607 by Pope Paul V’s prosecutors who accused the artist of illegal detention of firearms. This theory, advanced in 1936, was supported by Aldo de Rinaldi, who identified the Borghese canvas as the “Venus with a cherub with golden frame” summarily listed without a title in the Nota dei quadri, the catalogue of the paintings confiscated from D’Arpino. The work was later identified both as the painting mentioned in 1650 by Iacomo Manilli (“the sleeping Venus with a standing Cherub is by the same Cav. Giuseppe”), and the one mentioned by Domenico Montelatici in 1700 (“a Venus lying on the ground, asleep, with a boy standing”), though these descriptions do not fit the canvas in object, as observed by Paola della Pergola (1959).

However, the work is duly described in the 1693 inventory (“a canvas painting four spans in width with a Woman lying naked on a red cloth with a Cherub placing a Crown of flowers on her head and two Doves […] gilded frame belonging to Cavalier Gioseppe d’Arpino”) and assigned the number 723, still visible in the lower left-hand corner. Adolfo Venturi (1893) mistook it for the “Lying Venus” attributed to Scarsellino (inv. 206), an error repeated a few years later by Giulio Cantalamessa (1912). The work was correctly reascribed to Cavalier d’Arpino by Roberto Longhi (1928), an attribution broadly embraced by critics. In 1996, considering certain details such as the cherub’s features and the style of the landscape in the background, Patrizia Tosini suggested attributing the canvas to d’Arpino’s workshop, and more precisely to Cesari’s later production, at a time when the painter required the help of his atelier to deal with a large number of commissions. Furthermore, according to Tosini the closest iconographic precedent for this canvas was Titian’s Venus and the Lute Player (in both its Cambridge and its New York versions), from which the Borghese Venus differs in some details, such as the absence of the musician, of the bracelets, and of the pearl necklace, or the presence of the two doves on the windowsill. This was common practice for Cesari, who, as attested by Manilli (1650), had often replicated Vecellio’s works, these canvases having been described in the villa’s collections as “belonging to Cavaliere Giuseppe” and inspired by Titian.

This painting depicts Venus, the goddess of beauty, crowned by Cupid, her son, with a wreath of flowers. Lying voluptuously on a red cloth, her white and rose body, similar in its rendering to that of Andromeda (Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, KFMV 282), is lit by a pale light that emphasises its delicacy and the elegance of its forms. On her right, two white doves – typical attributes of the goddess – are perched on the sill of a window opening onto a beautiful, brightly coloured, refined landscape with lush vegetation. According to Tosini (1996), the subject might refer to a wedding allegory depicting the young bride as Venus, naked and beautiful as she will appear to her future husband. The goddess’s attempt to cover her head with the drape seems, in fact, to allude to married life, while the wreath of flowers proffered by Cupid stands for its chaste, loving essence.

The painter produced several versions of this same subject: two, now lost, were documented in Rome in 1624 as part of the painting collection of Monsignor Costanzo Patrizi (Röttgen, 2002); another is still present in a private collection in Rome (cit.).  

Antonio Iommelli

  • I. Manilli, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana, Roma 1650, p. 98;
  • D. Montelatici, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana con l’ornamenti che si osservano nel di lei Palazzo, Roma 1700, p. 276;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 364;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 99;
  • G. Cantalamessa, Note manoscritte al Catalogo di A. Venturi del 1893, Arch. Gall. Borghese, 1911-1912, n. 138;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 190;
  • A. Venturi, Storia dell'Arte Italiana, IX, Roma 1933, p. 938;
  • A. De Rinaldis, Documenti inediti per la Storia della R. Galleria Borghese in Roma, I, Le opere d’arte sequestrate al Cavalier d’Arpino, in “Archivi”, III, 1936, p. 577;
  • A. De Rinaldis, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1937, p. 18;
  • A. Quadrini, Il Cavalier d’Arpino, Isola del Liri 1940, p. 52;
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 63, n. 90;
  • R. Wiecker, Wilhelm Heinses Beschreibung romischer Kunstschatze Palazzo Borghese – Villa Borghese, (1781-83), Kopenhagen 1977, pp. 47, 103;
  • P. Tosini, in Immagini degli dei. Mitologia e collezionismo tra '500 e '600, catalogo della mostra (Lecce, Fondazione Memmo, 1996-1997), a cura di C. Cieri Via, Roma 1996, pp. 178-179;
  • Faszination Venus: Bilder einer Göttin von Cranach bis Cabanel, catalogo della mostra (Colonia, Wallraf Richartz Museum; Monaco, Alte Pinakothek, Anversa, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, 2000-2001), a cura di E. Mai, U. Weber-Woelk, Snoeck-Ducaju 2000, p. 155;
  • H. Röttgen, Il Cavalier Giuseppe Cesari D'Arpino. Un grande pittore nello splendore della fama e nell'incostanza della forma, Roma 2002, pp. 348, 502-506;
  • Venere svelata: la Venere di Urbino di Tiziano, catalogo della mostra (Bruxelles, Palais des Beaux-Arts, 2003-2004), a cura di O. Calabrese, Cinisello Balsamo (Milano) 2003, pp. 295,
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Galleria Borghese Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla pinacoteca ai depositi un museo che non ha più segreti, San Giuliano Milanese 2006, p. 48;
  • L. Bartoni, in Galleria Borghese. The Splendid Collection of a Noble Family, catalogo della mostra (Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art, 2009; Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 2010), a cura di C.M. Strinati, A. Mastroianni, F. Papi, Kyoto 2009, p. 152, n. 39.