In this enchanting painting a group of six women, one a generation older than the others, are pictured at half-length, close to the picture plane and to each other, some with arms around the others and all looking straight at the viewer. Cupid climbs over the shoulder of the woman at far right, leading the viewer to initially believe that she represents Venus, in which case the fire she holds her hand over could represent a flaming heart.
Upon closer inspection, however, four of the women appear to represent allegories of the seasons. The one on the far left holding grapes is Autumn; the woman next to her, holding wheat, is summer; Spring is the woman to the right of center, holding flowers; and the woman on the right, rather than representing Venus, would be Winter, wrapped in a warmer cloak than the others and holding her hand over a fire for warmth. This theory then shifts Venus to be the woman at center of the painting, gracefully holding the golden apple awarded to her by Paris.
The older woman standing behind Venus, however, remains a mystery, as does the artist of this beautifully preserved, unlined painting. Likely from the early to mid-18th century, an attribution and even a location has eluded scholars. While many believe the picture to be French, it has also been suggested that it is Viennese or German. Louis de Silvestre, the French artist who worked at the court in Dresden in the first half of the 18th century, is a name that has been suggested, though scholars have yet to come to a consensus.
Given the similar physiognomies of the women, it is likely that this is a portrait of a family, with a mother and five daughters beautifully painted to represent the Four Seasons with Venus and Cupid. It has been suggested that this is a bridal portrait, where the woman at center, representing Venus and the only one wearing a pearl necklace, is to be married and was painted surrounded by her maids of honor and standing next to her mother.