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Jewels for a Goddess: Venus in Pearls

Our new Venus Pearl Collection celebrates the adornments worn by the voluptuous goddess of love in works by Peter Paul Rubens

The great Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640) lived a remarkable life as an enormously successful painter, diplomat, and linguist, traveling frequently in Europe and receiving prominent art commissions from royal patrons and the Catholic Church. His self-portrait (below) in The Met collection, painted about 1635, shows the urbane, accomplished artist with his young second wife and their son.

Rubens family

“Rubens, His Wife Helena Fourment (1614–1673), and Their Son Frans (1633–1678).” Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640). Oil on wood, ca. 1635. 80 1/4 x 62 1/4 in. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, in honor of Sir John Pope-Hennessy, 1981 1981.238

Renowned for his exuberant compositions in the Baroque style, Rubens created works with historical, allegorical, and mythological themes as well as portraits and landscapes. The Met houses many examples of the master’s output, including oil paintings, drawings, and engravings. Here we celebrate his portrayals of Venus—whom he depicted with great skill and affection—the inspiration behind one of our most exciting new jewelry collections.

The theme appears in multiple works by Rubens, found in art collections around the world. Venus and Cupid (Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid) was painted about 1606–1611. The artist copied it from an oil by Titian, which is confirmed by her jewelry: both the pearl bracelet and finger ring appeared in Titian’s original work. The seductive goddess is wrapped in luxurious fabrics as her son, the boyish god Cupid, holds a mirror up to her gaze, in a scene executed with beauty and subtlety.

Thyssen blog

“Venus and Cupid,” Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid

Another painting, Venus, Cupid, Bacchus, and Ceres (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kassel) was finished in 1613. The allegorical theme shows the nude figures—an indication of their divinity—calmly enjoying the good life of love (Venus and Cupid), food (Ceres, goddess of agriculture), and wine (Bacchus, god of wine); here the goddess of love wears a pearl teardrop earring and a jeweled armband.


“Venus, Cupid, Bacchus, and Ceres,” Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kassel

In the acclaimed Venus in Front of a Mirror (Princely Collections of Liechtenstein), completed about 1616, Rubens portrays the voluptuous figure of Venus with her back to the viewer. Her abundant blond hair flows across her shoulders as Cupid again holds a mirror before her, this time turned in a direction that allows Venus, through the reflection in the glass, to gaze at the viewer. In this painting Rubens plays with the theme of seeing and being seen, establishing a connection between the subject and the viewer while revealing her coquetry.

Venus Mirror

“Venus in Front of a Mirror,” Princely Collections of Liechtenstein

In the painting, Venus’s nudity is again enhanced by a jeweled armband and a pair of pearl teardrop earrings; one of the earrings is white, and the other—reflected in the mirror—appears black. We are pleased to reveal our new jewelry collection that reimagines these beautiful earrings as modern adornments for ears, neck, and wrist. They are proudly made in the USA using the most innovative metal-working techniques of today. 

Our new pendants, earrings, and bracelets are available in both sterling silver and 18K gold-plated brass, with luminous black and white glass pearl drops.

In Venus and Adonis in The Met collection (below), Rubens has drawn his subject from the Metamorphoses of Ovid (completed 8 A.D.). Venus, assisted by Cupid, vainly tries to restrain her mortal lover Adonis from setting off for the hunt, fearing that he may be killed. Painted in the last decade of his life, it displays the rich color, superb technical ability, and vitality of Rubens’s best work. The sensuous nude goddess is adorned only with a pearl teardrop earring and two small, diaphanous cloths—adding yet another gorgeous nude to the legacy of the renowned artist.

Featured image

“Venus and Adonis.” Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640). Oil on canvas, probably mid-1630s. With added strips, 77 3/4 x 95 5/8 in. Gift of Harry Payne Bingham, 1937 37.162



  1. Author icon Gayathri B. Seetharam

    Hello, Sir/Madam, This is a sight for sore eyes. I saw the bracelet upon which ring at the Met Store is based. I saw the picture in The New York Times International edition delivered to our doorstep on Sundays. It was beautiful and I felt tempted to see the original.
    I have been to the Met in Dec 1997 and I have lovely memories of it. Tomorrow, I shall go the Art Gallery of Ontario. Thank you!

  2. Author icon Gayathri B. Seetharam

    Dear Metropolitan Museum of Art Store Blog, all my sources of reference say that Ceres is the Goddess of Agriculture and Fertility and a third quality. It is odd but I am willing to concede that memory may serve me ill. The oddest thing is that there are no virtuous goddesses except for Psyche, who is Goddess of Soul and Intellect. Hinduism, in particular, the teachings of Adi Shankaracharya say that God is within one’s soul. I like the English phrase, coming in touch with one’s soul, which implies that one has had a fleeting contact with the powers that be by being good or appreciative or etc. May I meander, please. ABBA sang in Mamma Mia, about love, there’s a fire within my soul, which means that actually despite proof to the contrary, Psyche and Aphrodite or Venus were friends, AND to be my husband’s soulmate means I obviously love him as he does me.
    Thank you,
    Gayathri B. Seetharam


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