This painting by Antonio Allegri Correggio, created around 1525, depicts the rare subject of Venus guiding Cupid to school with Mercury teaching him to read. The three figures are shown in a forest clearing and all are nude. Venus is standing close by as her son and his teacher interact. The preparatory sketch for the painting can be found at the British Museum.
The subject matter of this piece is unique in art history as it shows the relationship between Venus, Cupid, and Mercury in an educational setting. It is believed that this work was a part of the inventory of Maffei family in 1589, who were known to be art collectors during that time period.
Correggio’s use of light and shadow creates a dramatic effect on the scene. The figures seem to glow within the canvas due to Correggio’s technique called chiaroscuro; where he manipulates light through shading or shadowing effects. As a viewer, you can sense tension between these mythological characters from their facial expressions.
Overall, “Venus with Mercury Teaching Cupid to Read” is significant in art history because it portrays three important gods interacting in something mundane like education- ultimately conveying an idea that even legendary mortal beings have things they can learn from others.