Alessandro Tanari [1548-1639], Bologna, by 1638; purchased 1828 from the Casa Tanari, Bologna, by (James Irvine, London and Rome) for Sir William Forbes, 7th bt. of Pitsligo [1773-1828]; by inheritance to his son, Sir John Stuart Hepburn Forbes, 8th bt. [1804-1866]; (sale of his father's pictures at Alexander Rainey's, London, 2 June 1842, no. 29). Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro, of Novar, by 1854; (his sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 1 June 1878, no. 19); bought by "Dyer" [probably the dealer and restorer William Dyer] for Sir John Charles Robinson [1824-1913], London; sold 1878 to Sir Francis Cook, 1st bt. [1817-1901], Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey; by inheritance to his son, Sir Frederick Lucas Cook, 2nd bt. [1844-1920], Doughty House; by inheritance to his son, Sir Herbert Frederick Cook, 3rd bt. [1868-1939], Doughty House; by inheritance to his son, Sir Francis Ferdinand Maurice Cook, 4th bt. [1907-1978], Doughty House, and Cothay Manor, Somerset; sold February 1948 to (Gualtiero Volterra, London) for (Count Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi, Florence); purchased 1949 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1961 to NGA.
Associated NamesChristie, Manson & Woods, Ltd.
Contini Bonacossi, Alessandro, Count
Cook, 1st bt., Francis, Sir
Cook, 2nd bt., Frederick Lucas, Sir
Cook, 3rd bt., Herbert Frederick, Sir
Cook, 4th bt., Francis Ferdinand Maurice, Sir
Forbes, Sir John, 8th bt. of Pitsligo
Forbes, Sir William, 7th bt. of Pitsligo
Kress Foundation, Samuel H.
Munro, Hugh Andrew Johnstone
Robinson, John Charles, Sir
- Winter Exhibition, Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1908, no. 20.
- The Age of Correggio and the Carracci: Emilian Painting of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1986-1987, no. 93, color repro.
- Faszination Venus: Bilder einer Göttin von Cranach bis Cabanel, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne; Alte Pinakothek, Munich; Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, 2000-2001, no. 15, repro.
- Tiziano/Rubens. Venus ante el espejo, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, 2002-2003, no. 3, repro.
- Da Vermeer a Kandinsky. Capolavori dai musei del mondo a Rimini, Castel Sismondo, Rimini, 2012, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
The original support was a wood panel, probably consisting of two members with a horizontal join about 54 cm from the bottom of the composition. The ground is a dark layer overall and shows through in thinly painted areas. The paint layer was fluidly applied and, in general, is of medium thickness, with greatest buildup in the highlights of the figures and drapery. Venus' left arm was initially slightly higher, as indicated by pentimenti. Similar changes occurred in the left leg of the foreground Grace, whose left arm was also closer to her body.
Already in 1828 James Irvine noted that large losses had occurred in the figure of Venus and in the Grace behind her, and that the middle hues had sunken into what he called the dark brown ground. The transfer was probably carried out in the early twentieth century (according to Mario Modestini) and was poorly executed. Damage incurred during the transfer process has resulted in a very uneven paint surface. Severe abrasion throughout also contributes to the generally poor condition, and particularly to the loss of modeling in the figures. The thinly applied middle tones, particularly those of the curtain, floor rug, and landscape, have become transparent and sunken into the dark ground, greatly reducing the painting's tonal contrasts. Mario Modestini removed discolored varnish and restored the picture in 1954-1955. He adjusted the inpainting in 1959. The inpainting was adjusted again in 1986 by Jia-sun Tsang.
 Report to Sir William Forbes (from the Irvine letters, private collection) kindly communicated by Hugh Brigstocke (letter of 20 December 1978, NGA curatorial files), who reports that the letters may now be in the National Library, Edinburgh (letter of 13 February 1990, NGA curatorial files).
- Malvasia, Carlo Cesare. Felsina Pittrice. Vite de' Pittori Bolognesi con aggiunte correzioni e note inedite deel'autore di Giampietro Zanotti e di altri scrittori. 2 vols. Bologna, 1841: 1:357 (originally published 1678, reprinted 1974).
- Voss, Herrmann. Die Malerei des Barock in Rom. Berlin, 1924: 503.
- Brockwell, Maurice W. Abridged Catalogye of the Pictures at Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey, in the Collection of Sir Herbert Cook. London, 1932: no. 85.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation 1945-1951. Introduction by John Walker, text by William E. Suida. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1951: 136, no. 58, repro.
- Longhi, Roberto. "Annibale 1584?" Paragone 89 (1957): 41.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 214, repro.
- Walker, John, Guy Emerson, and Charles Seymour. Art Treasures for America: An Anthology of Paintings & Sculpture in the Samuel H. Kress Collection. London, 1961: 138, repro. pl. 129.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 23.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 16, repro.
- Posner, Donald. Annibale Carracci. A Study in the Reform of Italian Painting Around 1590. 2 vols. London, 1971: 1:51, 2:35, pl. 85.
- Pepper, Stephen. "I limiti del positivismo: 'L'Annibale Carracci' di Donald Posner." Arte Illustrata 5 (1972): 267.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XVI-XVIII Century. London, 1973: 73-74, fig. 132.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 56, repro.
- Malafarina, Gianfranco. L'opera completa di Annibale Carracci. Milan, 1976: 75, no. 79, repro., color pl. 37.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: I:121-122, II:pl. 83.
- Anderson, Jaynie. "Giorgione, Titian and the Sleeping Venus." In Tiziano e Venezia. Convegno internazionale di studi. Venezia, 1976. Vicenza, 1980: 340.
- Freedberg, Sydney. Circa 1600: A Revolution of Style in Italian Painting. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1983: 33-36, pl. 46.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 313, no. 411, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 76, repro.
- Christiansen, Keith. "Lorenzo Lotto and the Tradition of Epithalamic Painting." Apollo 124 (1986): 171.
- De Grazia, Diane, and Eric Garberson, with Edgar Peters Bowron, Peter M. Lukehart, and Mitchell Merling. Italian Paintings of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 49-54, color repro. 51.
- Klessmann, Rüdiger. Johann Liss: A Monograph and Catalogue Raisonné. Translated from the German by Diane L. Webb. Doornspijk, 1999: 60, 64 fig. 57, 79 (as "The Toilet of Venus").