The painting represents Venus depicted together with her love attributes, such as the myrtle in her right hand and the helmet of Mars on the ground.
Venus looks thoughtful and her long blond hair is gathered on her back and covered with a light transparent veil embellished with red lacquer which is almost completely disappeared today.
The painting is a part of a larger composition, which was probably a headboard of a bed. This theme and this kind of furnishing were popular among the rich families of Siena in the first half of the 16th century. The panel seems to be cut out from the original work for protective reasons or change in taste, so the panel was turned into an individual picture to hang on the wall. The right part has been completely cut off, where the body of Venus was lying on the ground and today there is only a part of the torso and arms.
This is one of the early works of Domenico Beccafumi and it was made between 1510 and 1513. During this period Leonardo Da Vinci’s style was often admired and copied in the artistic circles of Siena. This can be seen in Venus’ absorbed and shaded features, which was typical for Leonardo’s famous sfumato, where the lines and borders disappear in the background.
The painting comes from a private collection in Budapest. It appeared on the antiquities market between 1967 and 1976. Fondazione Monte dei Paschi di Siena bought the work in Christie’s auction in London on 9 July 2008 (Lot No. 229).
Domenico was born in Valdibiena, near Siena, in 1486. He studied the works of Pietro Perugino, who stayed in the city between 1502 and 1509. He also studied the works of Sodoma and Raphael and he paid close attention to their way of using colors and light effects.
His painting is characterized by strong contrasts of light, shadows and colors, which make the scenes seem unreal, almost like visions.
Beccafumi was well-informed on the latest Florentine works of his time, especially the paintings of Fra Bartolomeo, Piero di Cosimo, Mariotto Albertinelli and the first mannerist painters. In fact, he might have spent his early years in Florence.
He certainly was in Rome around 1510, where he studied the works of Michelangelo and Raphael. In 1512 he returned to Siena, where he was influenced by the works of Sodoma and especially by his studies of anatomy and nude figures. In this period he received his first important commissions like the decoration of the façade of Palazzo Borghesi and the chapel of Madonna del Manto (1512-1513, Siena, Santa Maria della Scala). The influence of Fra Bartolomeo, Filippino Lippi and Sodoma can be seen in these works, especially in the Triptych for the Trinity for the chapel’s altar.
His artistic style was already characterized by mannerism and anti-classical culture, taking inspiration from the works of Albrecht Durer and Piero di Cosimo, which was typical for Beccafumi’s works in the second decade of the 16th century, such as St. Paul in throne (1515, Siena, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo) the Stigmata of St. Catherine of Siena (1514, Siena, Pinanoteca) or the Holy Family (Munich, Alte Pinakothek, 1515-1525).
In 1517 he began working on the cartoons for the floor of the Siena cathedral and he dedicated his whole life to this work. In 1520 he traveled to Rome again, where he wanted to be informed on the latest news on art, particularly by Raphael and his workshop.
Once he returned to Siena he was involved in other important commissions such as the decoration of the Sala del Concistori in Palazzo Pubblico (1529-1535) and the equipment for the arrival of Emperor Charles V in 1536. In this occasion Beccafumi met Prince Doria, who called him to Genoa around 1536-1537. In this period he returned to Rome for a brief stay.
Beccafumi was also an engraver and between 1547 and 1551 he made the eight bronze angels in the Siena cathedral, which were strongly linked to the sculptural tradition of the city.
Among his other important works were the frescoes for the Oratory of San Bernardino in Siena in 1518 with the Marriage of the Virgin and the Death of the Virgin, the Nativity (Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale) and the panels for the Pisa cathedral between 1536 and 1539 with the Stories of Moses and the Evangelists.
Beccafumi died in Siena in 1551.
Monte dei Paschi di Siena Foundation was established on August 28, 1995 with the conferment of banking activity and it is the oldest bank in the world still operating.
The headquarters is in Palazzo Sansedoni of Piazza del Campo, Siena, and the main mission is to carry out philanthropic activities in cultural, artistic and environmental sectors.
The foundation owns and preserves two collections: the collection of Artworks and Malandrini collection of photographs. Both collections can be found on digital version online.
The artwork collection includes 57 pieces representing prestigious examples of Sienese art, some of which have been lost for centuries. A special committee of scholars and art historians was set up to identify the works of Sienese school between the 13th and 18th century. Among the artworks there are Segna di Bonaventura’s Madonna with Child Enthroned, St. Bartholomew, St. Ansanus and a Donor, Maestro dell’Osservanza’s Santa Lucia, Brescianino’s Madonna with Child and Little St. John, Ventura Salimbeni’s Santa Cecilia, Francesco Vanni’s Lamentation over the Dead Christ, Rutilio Manetti’s St. Jerome in Penitence and Bernardo Mei’s Holy Family with Magdalene.
The Malandri collection was named after the founder, photographer Ferruccio Malandrini, and it was established in 1975. The collection includes historical photographs from Siena territory, taken between 1853 and 1950. There are 135 units in the collection. The units consist of different themes, origins and technical and historical characteristics and in total they include 11,389 photographs.