Title: Sine Baccho et Cerere Friget Venus (Without Baccus and Ceres, Venus Freezes)
Oil on panel
Dimensions: Panel (unconfirmed): 24 3/8 × 31 inches (61.9 × 78.7 cm)
Frame: 33 × 38 1/2 × 2 1/2 inches (83.8 × 97.8 × 6.4 cm)
Acquired through the Nancy Horton Bartels, Class of 1948, Endowment; the Ernest I. White, Class of 1893, Endowment; the Marilyn Friedland, Class of 1965, and Lawrence Friedland Endowment; and through the generosity of Susan Lynch
This pairing attests to the important relationship, and important divergence, between Bloemaert’s practice of life drawing and his desire to paint in a popular artistic style. The painting at left dates from early in his career, when he favored the courtly style now called Mannerism, which favored crowded compositions, and distorted, weightless figures, often nude and eroticized. The painting’s subject—“without Bacchus and Ceres, Venus freezes”—comes from a verse from a play by the Roman dramatist Terence reminding us that food and wine are the dual fuel of love. Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, supports a nude Venus and waves a handful of wheat stalks, while the wine in the cup Cupid offers comes from Bacchus, leaning on a wine barrel at lower right. The refreshment has not yet roused Venus, and so Cupid’s bow lies dormant below.
The chalk drawing at right presents a varied grouping of life studies of legs, arms, and hands, including preparatory sketches for the arms Ceres and of Cupid. This proves that the highly stylized depictions of the human form in the painting nonetheless spring from carefully observed academic studies, in this case of a clothed female model. (From "Undressed: The Nude in Context, 1500-1750" 2019)
NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.