Venus in Her Sea Chariot Suckling Cupid
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Alessandro Algardi
Italian, about 1645 - 1650
Black chalk, partially pricked for transfer
11 15/16 x 17 5/8 in.

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Held up by a triton wearing a garland of seaweed at his waist, Cupid suckles at a woman's breast-probably that of Venus, the goddess born from the sea. Her scallop-shell chariot drawn by two dolphins is a common attribute, recalling her birth from the sea. In the background, Neptune, ruler of the sea, brandishes his trident and rides in a shell chariot drawn by two hippocamps (sea horses).

In this drawing, Alessandro Algardi combined idealization of the human body derived from classical sculpture with convincing, realistic representation based on close observation of the human form. His energetic use of chalk imbued the scene with movement and caught the effect of light, particularly in his modeling of Venus's soft skin and the tritons' muscular flesh.

Algardi most often made drawings in association with sculptural projects. As the master of the illusionistic pictorial relief during the Baroque era in Rome, he may have designed this arrangement of figures for a low-relief sculpture, possibly for execution in embossed metalwork. Either Algardi, an assistant, or a later artist pricked only the outlines of the main group for transfer to another surface. Only the main group may have been used, or the project may have been abandoned or altered on the right side.

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