Thomas Matthews Rooke had a varied and long lasting career and is best known for his work as Burne-Jones' longest-standing studio assistant and also for his realtionship with Ruskin, for whom he created numerous watercolours and drawings for his Guild of St George project. Rooke was also an independent and prolific artist in his own right, having trained at the RA schools in the 1860s and he exhibited at the Academy from 1876. Here he depicts Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, standing in flowing blue drapery with flowers garlanding her head. As in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (c.1485, The Uffizi, Florence), Rooke depicts Venus with cascading blonde hair held in her left hand. The boat in the background, Venus’s pearl necklace and the shell in her right hand all reference her mythological birth from the sea where she was blown ashore in a shell by Zephyr, the god of the wind.
Rooke gave this picture to his daughter-in-law, Celia Rooke (née Fiennes), who was also an artist. Celia had met Noel Rooke, the artist’s son, at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, where he had been her tutor. Celia worked as a woodcutter, printmaker and painter throughout her life. She was best known for a series of woodcut silhouette designs for the 1926 Golden Cockerel Press edition of The Fables of Aesop.