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Gallery Text

Breenbergh specialized in paintings of Italianate landscapes with shepherds or small figures that enact scenes from the Bible or classical mythology. Here he represents an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in which Adonis, the mortal paramour of Venus, the goddess of love, ignored her plea to refrain from hunting dangerous game and was then gored by a wild boar. Conveyed to the scene by her swan-drawn chariot, Venus and her son, Cupid, grieve over the dying youth. She memorialized him by creating the anemone, one of her sacred flowers, from his blood, and the hemorrhaging wound is accordingly a focal passage of the picture. A drawing by Breenbergh of a nude male, which served as a model for the figure of Adonis, is also in the Harvard Art Museums’ collections.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Bartholomeus Breenbergh, Dutch (Deventer, Netherlands 1598 - 1657 Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Venus Mourning the Death of Adonis
Work Type
Creation Place: Europe, Netherlands
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2300, European Art, 17th–19th century, Seventeenth–Century Dutch and Flemish Art
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Physical Descriptions

Oil on panel
38.4 x 49.4 cm (15 1/8 x 19 7/16 in.)
framed: 54.5 × 64.5 × 6.4 cm (21 7/16 × 25 3/8 × 2 1/2 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: BB f., Signed Date: 1646


Recorded Ownership History
[Silvano Lodi, Lugano, by 1970]. [Bruno Meissner, Zurich]. [Bob Habdolt & Co., Paris and New York, by 1985], sold; to a private collector by 1989 [with "Reclining Male Nude"]. Vermeer Associates Ltd. [through Sotheby's, New York, 1995, Sale 6654, lot 66], sold; to Harvard Art Museums, 1997.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Kate, Maurice R., and Melvin R. Seiden Special Purchase Fund, Janine Luke, The Louis Agassiz Shaw Bequest, and William and Ami Danoff in honor of Seymour Slive
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Advertisement for Galerie Bruno Meissner, Tableau, Tableau Fine Arts Media (Amsterdam, December 1981 - January 1982), vol. 4, no. 4, p. 251, repr.
  • Marcel Roethlisberger, Bartholomeus Breenbergh: The Paintings, Walter de Gruyter and Co. (Germany, 1981), p. 86, cat. no. 219
  • Important Old Master Paintings Sale 6654, auct. cat., Sotheby's, New York (New York, January 12, 1995), lot no. 66, repr.
  • Stephanie Dickey, "The Line on Old Masters", Art & Antiques (February 1998), vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 79-83, p. 79, color repr.
  • James Cuno, ed., A Decade of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions by the Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, Mass., Spring 2000), pp. 48-49, repr. p. 49
  • Annemarie Stefes, Niederländische Zeichnungen 1450-1850: Kupferstichkabinett der Hamburger Kunsthalle, ed. Andreas Stolzenburg and Hubertus Gaßner, Böhlau Verlag (Cologne, 2011), vol. 1, p. 82, under cat. no. 33 (n. 13)
  • Singular Vision: Haboldt & Co.'s Old Master Paintings and Drawings since 1983, auct. cat., Bob P. Haboldt & Co. (Amsterdam, New York, and Paris, 2012), p.10
  • Ger Luijten, Peter Schatborn, and Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr., Drawings for Paintings in the Age of Rembrandt, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art and Skira (Washington, DC, 2016), cat. no. 57, pp. 151, 153, 279, repr. p. 153
  • William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson, Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016), p. 64, under cat. no. 13, repr. fig. 1

Exhibition History

  • HAA 10 Survey Course (S421): The Western Tradition: Art Since the Renaissance (Fall 08 Rotation 2), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/23/2008 - 11/16/2008
  • HAA 10 Survey Course (S421): The Western Tradition: Art Since the Renaissance (Fall 09 Rotation 2), Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 10/16/2009 - 11/08/2009
  • 32Q: 2300 Dutch & Flemish, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/17/2018 - 09/25/2019; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/01/2019 - 01/01/2050
  • Drawings for Paintings in the Age of Rembrandt, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 10/04/2016 - 01/02/2017; Fondation Custodia, Paris, 02/03/2017 - 05/07/2017

Related Works

Verification Level

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