Anthony van Dyck

The marriage portrait of George Villiers and Katherine Manners

Combining an aristocratic portrait with an erotic episode from classical mythology was unheard of in the time of Anthony van Dyck (Antwerp, 1599 – London, 1641). So it was a bold move by the young Belgian artist. Who do we see portrayed as Adonis and Venus on this radical double portrait? The flamboyant and unpopular Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers, and his brand new wife: Katherine Manners. After the royal family, Manners was the wealthiest woman in Britain.

Villiers is portrayed as the young, handsome hunter with whom the goddess Venus falls in love. Although, in the myth, Venus begs him not to go on the hunt, Van Dyck's Adonis seems completely besotted with her and couldn't care less about hunting. Just like Adonis – who died at a young age while hunting – Villiers dies just a few years after this painting was made, murdered by one of his many enemies.

The huge composition of the two semi-naked newlyweds is one of the three famous paintings that are associated with Van Dyck's first trip to England. The influence of Rubens – in whose studio Van Dyck had worked – is clear: until the end of the 20th century, it was thought that this was a self-portrait of Rubens with his wife. The painting has rarely been on public display, until now, so this a golden opportunity to see it!

Practical information

The marriage portrait of George Villiers Duke of Buckingham (1592-1628), and Katherine Manners (1603-1649), shown full height as Venus and Adonis
Artist Anthony van Dyck
Date 1620-1621
Material Oil on canvas
Size 223 x 160 cm
On loan Liberty Globus C.V., c.q. Albada Jelgersma family

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