The subject of the painting is borrowed from the ancient fable. Adonis is the middle child of Theias, the king of Syria, and his daughter, Myrrha. Adonis was born after the goddess venus encourages the incestuous union of the king and his daughter. Her mother had been transformed into a myrrh tree from whose trunk Adonis was born. The goddess Venus took charge of taking care of Adonis by entrusting him to Persephone, the goddess of the underworld. Adonis grew up to be so beautiful that Persephone could not bear to give him back to Venus. After a dispute between the two, Zeus decided that Adonis would spend four months with Venus and another four months with Persephone. The remaining third of the year, Adonis would get to choose whichever of the goddesses he wanted to spend time with. Venus used her magic to cause Adonis to choose her.

Adonis fell in love with Aphrodite. The goddess of love became infuriated and killed Adonis. However, because of the intense love that Aphrodite had for Adonis, the handsome man was granted life again. In the painting by John William Waterhouse, you can see Adonis being woken up with a kiss from Venus. The scene is set in Venus's Elysian pleasure garden. The garden is packed with roses, which are a symbol of Venus. In the painting, you can see four kids sitting around Adonis. One of the kids, the one with angel wings, is Cupid, the god of love. Cupid appears to be blowing a torch.

This symbolizes the rekindling of a flame. The other kids are believed to be a band of pluto who are holding flowers. In the background, you can see white doves taking to the air. The background also features some bushes, tall trees, and Greek columns. John William Waterhouse used a long horizontal canvas to create an almost panoramic view of the scene. Waterhouse created a painting of the most dramatic yet romantic scene of the Greek mythology. Throughout his career, John William Waterhouse created several other paintings portraying Greek Gods and other Greek mythology characters. During the Royal Academy Exhibition, critics recognized it as one of Waterhouse’s most powerful and characteristic pieces of art.

The Awakening of Adonis in Detail John William Waterhouse