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Plate XXXIV.


p. 69

Venus on her Shell Conch


THIS graceful painting would not have dishonoured the pencil of Titian. The Queen of Love is reclining on a sea-shell; Cupid and a dolphin are her attendants. A pure and limpid stream cradles her softly on its surface, and her scarf, swollen by the breath of the zephyrs, serves as a sail for the frail bark.

The form of the goddess is equally noble and voluptuous; her beautiful hair, surmounted by an elegant diadem, falls in wavy curls over her alabaster shoulders.

We feel that such beauty cannot be the portion of any mortal. She wears bracelets on her arms and feet; in her right hand we observe a leaf of lily. Roman ladies made use of the leaf of the lily (nymphæ) after the manner of a fan.

The dolphin was consecrated to Venus. Several mythologists have erroneously represented this as a fabulous fish. There is nothing fabulous about it except the form that painters attribute to it. It has been said that this fish was consecrated to Venus on account of her penchant for young girls, and this ridiculous explanation has been seriously reproduced by the academicians of Herculaneum and by Sylvain Maréchal, following them. The dolphin generally swims on the surface of the waters; we have ourselves

p. 70

seen numerous troops of them at the entrance of the gulf of Naples, between the island of Capri and Cape Misena. Its movements resemble those of a little boat, which rises and falls again with the wave that carries it.

This charming fresco was found at Gragnano in 1762. It served as the perspective to a small garden.

Next: Plate XXXV: Spinthria