Although she is said to be Venus, the costume and representation of the seated woman suggest she is less a classical figure than a contemporary, being beguiled by Cupid who holds his arrow in a meaningful fashion. The 1998 sale catalogue entry proposed a dating around 1600, after Oliver's first trip to Italy.
Oliver was the son of French Huguenots who took refuge in London in 1568. He trained with Nicholas Hilliard but by 1587 had his own workshop, and became an English subject in 1606. He had great success as a portrait miniaturist and was appointed Painter for the Art of Limning to James I's wife, Anne of Denmark. He travelled abroad and his exposure to Italian painting profoundly affected his work, supplanting to some extent the prior influence of Netherlandish masters and the School of Fontainebleau. This drawing can be compared in style, technique and composition with the Madonna and Child, sold London, Sotheby's, 4 July 2007, lot 10.
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