500-year-old painting leaves National Gallery for first time to be displayed in Cambridge

The National Gallery’s prized Botticelli painting, Venus and Mars, has ventured out of its London home for the first time since 1874, making its way to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. This historic loan is part of a nationwide celebration marking the gallery’s 200th anniversary.

Twelve iconic paintings from the National Gallery are being shared with locations across the UK, with Venus and Mars, painted around 1485, taking pride of place among the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Italian art treasures from the 15th and 16th centuries.

Visitors to the museum can expect to see the painting in the company of other renowned works such as Titian’s Venus and Cupid with a lute-player, dating back to around 1555-1565, and a sculpture of Apollo by Antico from around 1520-2.

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The exhibition aims to delve into themes of sexuality, nudity, closeness, gender dynamics, and authority.

Luke Syson, the director of the Fitzwilliam Museum said: “At the Fitzwilliam Museum, we are all absolutely delighted to be taking part in this wonderful celebration of the National Gallery’s Bicentenary.

“We are particularly thrilled to be the first museum ever to borrow Botticelli’s extraordinary Venus and Mars since it was acquired for the nation 150 years ago.

“It is really exciting to display it with Italian Renaissance masterpieces from our own collection; Antico’s newly bequeathed Apollo Belvedere and Titian’s Venus and the Lute Player, that speak to it, to create a display that explores love and desire, nudity and gender expectations, and the delights and dangers of looking.

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