Paolo Veronese, Italian, 1528–1588, Venus Disarming Cupid, about 1560, oil on canvas, Gift of Hester Diamond, 2013.50.
WORCESTER, MASS.- The Worcester Art Museum today announced it has acquired Paolo Veronese’s Venus Disarming Cupid, datable to circa 1560, one of the few works by the famed Renaissance master still in private hands. The subject depicts Venus, in a playful gesture, taking away the bow of her son Cupid, so he is unable to deliver his arrows of love. The painting is a gift from collector Hester Diamond of New York, in honor of her stepdaughter, Rachel Kaminsky, a board member of the Museum. Ms. Diamond acquired the work at Christie’s in 1990. Venus Disarming Cupid will go on view at the Worcester Art Museum on September 20, as part of the upcoming exhibition [remastered].
“It is rare that a museum can announce the acquisition of a single Italian Renaissance work, let alone one as spectacular as this Veronese,” said Matthias Waschek, the Museum’s director. Venus Disarming Cupid is a game changer for our collection. We are fortunate ten times over to be receiving this generous gift from Ms. Diamond. While the Museum’s collection includes exceptional Italian Renaissance masterworks by artists such as Andrea Del Sarto and Piero di Cosimo, it has traditionally been stronger in northern European works. This Veronese shifts the spotlight to the south, and reflects our desire to grow and expand the scope and diversity of the Museum’s collection.”
This is one of several recorded paintings by Veronese that present the subject of Venus and Cupid, however few have survived. The scene comes from the writings of the Greek rhetorician and satirist Lucian, and was a popular subject in sixteenth-century Italy. This particular composition is based on a drawing by Parmigianino, the Bolognese master whose work Veronese greatly admired.
“I have two motives for giving this painting to Worcester,” said collector Hester Diamond. “First, it is an opportunity to honor my stepdaughter, Rachel Kaminsky, who joined the Museum Board in 2012. Beyond that, I have always believed that the best public home for a work of art is within an institution where it adds something new to the collection and helps bring in new audiences. Over the years, my collection has evolved, incorporating art from many periods, genres and styles. The Worcester Museum’s willingness to explore new ideas for encouraging audiences of every age to think differently about art reflects the arc of my own collecting.”
In 1990, Venus Disarming Cupid was consigned to Christie’s by its owner as “Circle of François Boucher.” Prior to the sale, the attribution for this important rediscovery of a work by Veronese was enthusiastically endorsed by the art historian and Veronese expert Terisio Pignatti, who, in conjunction with Filippo Pedrocco, published the work in Veronese: Catalogo completo dei dipinti (1991), and W. R. Rearick, a well-known expert on Venetian 16th century painting. A collector’s stamp on the reverse of the canvas suggests that the painting was once in the collection of the Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen, a county and principality in southwestern Germany. The painting was on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in late 2006, and was included in the exhibition Venus: Bilder einer Göttin (Images of a Goddess) at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich in 2001.
In Worcester, the painting will be a celebrated addition to the Museum’s upcoming reinstallation of a suite of old master galleries, under the title [remastered]. European works will be featured in medallion-style hangings—reminiscent of 17th-18th century collection displays—that encourage the viewer to make personal connections with and between the works. At the same time, WAM is working on alternative design approaches that encourage new ways for visitors to interact with and participate in daily uses of the gallery as: a classroom, inviting formal (collegiate) and informal (drop-in visitor) learning; as a laboratory, with interpretative and interactive iPad applications; as a sanctuary, reintroducing spirituality practices with interfaith clergy; and as a community space, activating the galleries as a welcoming place for family audiences. The goal is to balance opportunities for quiet contemplation—the “traditional” museum experience—with new presentation modes and forms of audience engagement. This is part of the Museum’s overall emphasis on reshaping the visitor experience, particularly for those for whom more direct instruction or engagement is needed or desired.
In addition to the Veronese, [remastered] will include paintings by El Greco, Rembrandt, Ribera, Ruisdael, Strozzi and de Hooch.