Venus and Adonis, 1553, Titian
Size: 186×207 cm
Medium: oil, canvas
“Adonis, like many young men, loved to hunt. Aphrodite warned him away from the more dangerous animals, but he ignored her advice and pursued a wild boar, which pierced him with its tusks. Hearing his death groans, Aphrodite rushed to her lover’s side, pricking her foot on a white rose on the way, staining it red. This was the origin of the red rose. Aphrodite decreed that Adonis’ death would be mourned annually. According to Ovid, she transformed his blood into a red anemone, a short living plant that would re-bloom each year in his memory as an everlasting symbol of her grief and love.
In some versions of the myth, the boar was actually a disguised Ares (Aphrodite’s lover) or Hephaestus (her husband), angry and jealous at the attentions heaped on young Adonis. Alternatively, the boar was spurred on by Artemis, avenging the death of Hippolytus, which Aphrodite had instigated.
Shakespeare’s own version of the myth, his poem Venus and Adonis, follows Ovid’s account with a few embellishments. Shakespeare’s Adonis is a little younger and more innocent, shying away from Venus’ advances. An episode is added in which Adonis’ stallion lusts after a mare, foiling the young man’s attempt to escape Venus’ constant attentions. Some of Shakespeare’s other elaborations include Venus’ seduction speech and her lament over Adonis’ body.”