This hitherto unrecorded Worship of Venus is an important addition to the corpus of mythological pictures by the highly idiosyncratic Venetian artist, Giulio Carpioni. A pupil of Alessandro Varotari, known as Il Padovanino, Carpioni is thought to have travelled to Rome at an early stage in his career. It was here that he must have seen Titian's rediscovered Bacchanals, painted for the studiolo of Alfonso d'Este between 1476-1534, and bequeathed by Lucrezia d'Este to Cardinal Aldobrandini. Carpioni developed an original and instantly recognisable style that assimilated influences from the Caravaggesque Venetian works of Saraceni and Le Clerc, and the group of Veronese painters active in Rome that included Turchi, Ottino, and Basetti.
This Worship of Venus is a fine example of the small mythological pictures, largely inspired by the Bacchanals of Titian, Pietro Testa and Poussin; scenes which he interpreted with wit and a melancholic charm. Orlandi described them as 'perfect conceptions, such as dreams, sacrifices, bacchanals, triumphs, dances of putti, the most attractive caprices and fantasies that a painter, inclined to work on a small scale, has ever conceived' (P.A. Orlandi, Abecedario pittorico, Bologna, 1704, p. 311). The highly linear manner of execution, and strong contrast between the areas of palpably cold light and dark are characteristic of Carpioni's bacchanals painted towards the end of his career. The present picture can be compared with the Offerta a Venere, of similar dimenisions, in a private collection in Genoa, which Pilo dates to the mid-1660s (see G.M. Pilo, Carpioni, Venice, 1961, p. 98, fig. 124).
The subject is taken from Ovid (Fasti, IV, 133-50) which describes a rite of worship dedicated to Venus that took place on 1 April in the Roman calendar. Women would make offerings of incense to a statue of Venus in order to cleanse 'every blemish on their bodies'.
Cefyn Bryntalch Hall, where this picture hung for many years, was built by G.F. Bodley and Philip Webb in 1869, is regarded as marking the beginning of the Georgian revival of the 1870s; it was later the home of the Anglo-Welsh composer and critic, Peter Warlock, born Philip Arnold Heseltine (1894-1930).