The Venus and Adonis motif goes back to a rather complex Syrian cult that spread across the Greek world in the wake of Alexander’s conquests and gained a wide followership. Many of Theocritus’ idylls circle around it. The core story on which the motif rests is that Adonis wants to go hunting; Astarte (for whom the Greek followers substituted Aphrodite) tries to hold him back; he is killed by a wild boar; Astarte turns the drops of his blood into anemones, thus granting him some form of immortality.

This is a lifesize painting by Nicolas Mignard, now at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. He treats the subject with some understatement and rarely matched mastery.

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