Fine engraving after a sensual painting now known as The Toilet of Venus (1620-25) by the Italian Baroque master Guido Reni. A semi-nude Venus is tenderly dressed by the Three Graces, who were the daughters of Zeus and personifications of beauty, charm and grace. Cupid stands at Venus's knee and another putto is in flight, plucking a flower from a vase on the sill. This engraving popularized the painting in England, as noted in the entry on Reni by Michael Bryan in the 1849 edition of his Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, which mentions "Venus attired by the Graces, a subject well known by Strange's engraving…" As the inscription below the title notes, at the time of the engraving in 1759, the painting was in the royal collection at Kensington Palace. In 1836, it was presented by William IV to England's National Gallery, where it remains today. According to the National Gallery, "Reni designed the picture and executed parts of it (at least the figure of Venus). The painting is perhaps identifiable with a work that Reni is recorded as having made in 1622 for the Duke of Mantua." Evidently, Strange copied the painting as he saw it, and therefore it was reversed when printed; in the original Venus is on the right.
Guido Reni was an Italian painter, draftsman and etcher, among the greatest and most influential in 17th century Italian art. Among his own influences were the art of antiquity, the Renaissance master Raphael and the Mannerist painter Parmigianino. He was know for the gracefulness and expressiveness of his figures, especially in his religious subjects, and his sophisticated handling of color.
Robert Strange was a Scottish engraver, writer and collector, active in England. He was trained as a portrait engraver in Edinburgh, and developed his line engraving skills in France in 1748 and 1749 under Jean-Baptiste Descamps and the celebrated engraver Jacques-Philippe Lebas. He arrived in London in 1750, where his skills were highly regarded. After turning down a commission from the painter Allen Ramsay to make engravings after Ramsay's portrait of the Prince of Wales in 1759, he lost royal patronage. He left for Rome in 1760 and spent the next four years in Italy making a series of acclaimed engravings after Old Master paintings that garnered him membership in the Académie Royale of Paris, and the academies of Rome, Florence, Bologna and Parma. From 1764 on, he divided his time between London and Rome. He received further honors in London: membership of the Incorporated Society of Artists in London and, in 1787, knighthood. His engravings continued to be admired after his death and a catalogue of his works was published in 1848 as part of Charles Blanc's Le Graveur en Taille Douce.
Title and inscriptions in lower margin in Latin and English: Venus Graitarum artibus exornata. E Tabula Guidonis Reni, 9 pedes et 6 digitos alta 7 pedes lata, in oedibus regiis Kensingtonii conservata. Venus attired by the Graces. From the Painting of Guido Reni, 9 feet 6 inches high, by 7 feet wide, in the Royal Palace of Kensington. Guido Reni Pinx't. Robertus Strange delin. et sculp. Londini. 1759.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, soft creases. Few short marginal tears and chips professionally restored.
Bryan, Michael. A Biographical and Critical Dictionary of Painters and Engravers. London: H.G. Bohn, 1849. p. 629. Online at Google Books. http://books.google.com/books?id=9RVAAAAAYAAJ (14 June 2010).
Phillips, Claude. The Picture Gallery of Charles I. London: Seeley and Co., 1896. Online at Google Books. http://books.google.com/books?id=M6IMAQAAIAAJ (14 June 2010).
"Reni, Guido." The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. Online at Artnet.com.
http://www.artnet.com/library/07/0714/T071466.asp (14 June 2010).
"Sir Robert Strange." NNDB. 2010. http://www.nndb.com/people/173/000097879/ (15 June 2010).
"Strange, Sir Robert." The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. Online at Artnet.com.http://www.artnet.com/library/08/0817/T081726.asp (14 June 2010).
"Studio of Guido Reni. The Toilet of Venus. NG90." National Gallery of Art, London. http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/studio-of-guido-reni-the-toilet-of-venus (14 June 2010).