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Mars and Venus, 1599

Cornelis van Haarlem

Dutch, 1562-1638
Oil on copper
21-3/4 x 17-1/4 in. (55.2 x 43.8 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation, from the Estate of Jennifer Jones Simon
M.2010.1.25.P
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

The love affair of Mars and Venus is recounted by Homer in the Odyssey and by Ovid in the Metamorphoses. Venus, the wife of Vulcan, falls in love with Mars, the god of war. The moment of their tryst is depicted here with great pictorial flair. Maidservants prepare the goddess of love for her amorous adventure. Mars, too, is assisted out of his garment, his weapons already cast aside at his feet. No longer the ferocious warrior, Mars is subdued by the power of love. The artist includes the charming device of two putti at right holding the god’s shield and halberd. This painted story was enjoyed as much for its learned, literary references as for its erotic content.

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