Born of the incestuous relation between Myrrha and her father, the Cypriot King Cinyras, Adonis was raised by nymphs and grew into a youth of legendary beauty. Venus fell in love with him when she was accidentally struck by one of Cupid's arrows, but she forsaw the day when Adonis would be killed. In the first of these two reliefs, Adonis prepares to leave for the hunt while Venus implores him not to go, realising that he will not return. His dogs wait expectantly to the right. In the pendant relief, Adonis has been gored by a wild boar (anemones grew where his blood touched the ground) and Venus, distraught, mourns over his lifeless body. The dogs, too, howl over the loss of their master.
Jakob Gabriel Molinarolo was from a family of sculptors who worked in Austria. He was a student of Matthus Donner (see lot 146), and is considered to be one of the most talented figures of the influential 'Donner school'. His most important commission was the high altar of the church of Wiener-Neustadt. This pair of reliefs was formerly attributed to Georg Raphael Donner, and certainly there are debts to him evident in the composition of these leads. As Baum notes, loc. cit., the arrangement of the figures in Adonis taking leave of Venus is highly reminiscent of Georg Raphael's wax relief representing The Consoling of Mary Magdalen (see Baum, op. cit., I, no. 58). However, other stylistic hallmarks, including the carefully built up levels of plasticity, led to the attribution to Molinarolo first proposed by Pigler in 1929 (op. cit.), and confirmed by Baum in 1980.