Venus and Anchises

WAG 3082


'Venus and Anchises' was inspired by a verse from a poem called the 'Epipsychidion', by Shelley. 'Athwart that wintry wilderness of thorns Flashed from her motion splendour like the morn's, And from her presence life was radiated Through the grey earth and branches bare and dead; So that her way was paved and roofed above With flowers as soft as thoughts of budding love; ' Richmond shows us the meeting at night, of Venus and her earthly lover, the Trojan shepherd Anchises, on Mount Ida. Venus, clothed in glowing pink and gold walks towards Anchises, who awaits her holding a lyre. Anchises, clad in a red shirt, appears to cower in the shadow of a tree. The usual penalty for mortals such as he for looking at a god or goddess was to be turned into stone. The picture is not a simple illustration of a mythical event, but demonstrates the transforming power of love. Night has turned into day. In the bottom right of the picture there are the dead leaves of autumn, but wherever Venus walks she becomes surrounded by spring flowers and apple blossom. She is accompanied by lions and a flight of doves which disperse a group of sparrows. Although the event depicted is rooted in ancient Greek mythology, Richmond chooses to show the dramatic awakening of a northern landscape in an English spring. The offspring of the union between Venus and Anchises was Aeneas, the legendary ancestor of the Romans. This picture was exhibited in London and Birmingham in 1890 and in Berlin in 1891. When it was shown at the Walker in the Autumn Exhibition of 1892, the gallery bought the painting for £800.