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Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari
Italian, 1654-1727

oil on canvas, c. 1720

From: "The Pages"

Chiari was born in March of 1654, but it’s not certain whether in Lucca or Rome. He was a successful frescoist as well as painter

Young Giuseppe was apprenticed at the age of 10 to a painter and art dealer, Carlantonio Galliani, but joined Carlo Maratti’s studio in Rome two years later, in 1666. He was Maratti’s most faithful pupil, keeping his art alive into the 1720s with a softer, more elegant version of his classicism. His first official commission was for paintings on the side walls of the chapel of the Marcaccioni in Santa Maria del
Suffragio, Rome. This project established his reputation; thereafter he won the patronage of many noble Roman families and of foreign visitors to Rome. In the early years of the 18th c, Pope Clement
XI became Chiari’s most important patron. The Graf Christian Schaumburg-Lippe of Germany, also snapped up Chiari’s paintings.

He painted predominantly religious works, altho’ he also did some fine cabinet pieces of mythologic scenes. Chiari was made Principe of the Accademia di S Luca, Rome, from 1722 to 1725.

The subject comes from classic mythology. Venus is the Roman name for Aphrodite, goddess of love. Unlike other Olympians she had but one duty – to incite desire. According to legend, her name means “foam-born,” because she sprang from the foaming blood of her murdered father, Uranus, when his body was flung into the sea. That love arose from murder expressed the Greek idea of the indestructibility of life.

Because of her great beauty Venus was courted by all the gods, but she married Vulcan (Greek name: Hephæstus), the ugly lame smith-god. Actually, she had no choice because Juno (Hera) had ordained the marriage as a punishment for Vulcan, whom Juno knew would be tortured by Venus’ endless infidelities. (This nasty plan backfired, tho’, because Vulcan loved Venus so much he didn’t care what she did.)

Cupid was the son of Venus and Jupiter. He also acted as Venus’ agent. He was a very naughty boy, whose magical arrows could induce love or hate, depending on whether he used a golden arrow or a leaden one. He disobeyed his mother only once, after he grew up: he scratched himself with his own arrow & fell in love with a beautiful mortal, Psyche.

Chiari has taken a liberty with the classical story in that there are two Cupids! Perhaps the second is merely showing the movement that takes place a bit later. Naughty Cupid teases his mother with his arrow. Chiari has included a rose and doves, which were sacred to Venus. The sculpted shell in the background is an allusion to Venus’ birth. Lush color and graceful composition characterize the work.
[Compare this Venus with Vouet’s, in Gal. 7]