At once comic, tragic and erotic, Venus & Adonis (1593) is a poem by William Shakespeare based on passages from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. This new Dutch translation by Hafid Bouazza of Shakespeare’s text is illustrated by Marlene Dumas, with her complete suite of thirty-three works on paper reproduced throughout.
The poem tells the story of Venus, the goddess of love, and her attempts to seduce the hunter Adonis. It is a complex, kaleidoscopic work in which love takes center stage – Venus’s lustful yearning for Adonis ripples throughout, each stanza and line tinged with unrequited longing. Through a series of expressive ink washes, Dumas paints new passion into the poem – bodies bleed into one another, lips part in sighs of passion.
As Venus declares, “Graze on my lips, and if those hills be dry, / Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie.” Like Shakespeare before her, Dumas opens up a seemingly unending flow between light and dark, love and death, pleasure and pain.