The subject is based on Philostratus' Imagines, which describe a painting in which revelers, mostly women, engage in sacrificial celebrations beside the statue of Venus. Furthermore, it can be connected to Ovid's calender of Roman festivals (Fasti 4th book, 133-192), which describes the festival of 'Venus Verticordia' ("changer or transformer of hearts"), who was worshipped for her power to transform the impure desires of young women from that of carnal love to pure love. The festival of Venus Verticordia occurred annually on April 1st, the first day of the month dedicated to the goddess.1
This work is entirely typical of the sophisticated, yet purposefully sweet naiveté developed by Louis de Caullery, who worked in Antwerp at the beginning of the seventeenth century. He often injected slightly eroticized undertones into his outdoor fête scenes. His figures are characterized by their delicate features, particularly their small eyes and soft skin. A variant of the present composition, of reduced dimensions, is in the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen (inv. no. KMS1978). Only two signed works by Louis Caullery are known, a Carnival scene in the Kunsthalle, Hamburg; and a Gallant Festival in an Interior (Allegory of the Five Senses), dated 1620, in the Louvre (on deposit in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Cambrai).
1. Koester, op.cit.
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