Art Stories

Discover entertaining essays on a wide variety of artworks from our extensive collections in the section Art Stories.

A delicate relationship

Hubert Gerhard, Mars, Venus and Amor
Munich (?), c. 1580/90, KHM, Kunstkammer, inv. no. 5848

Love and war are presented here as a couple, but in between the two, Amor, the winged god of love, has seemingly staked out a secure place. As long as he remains there, peace reigns.

The crucial, dialectic point of the ancient myth: Harmony is the offspring of the mismatched couple.

By her seductive allure Venus reins in the power of Mars.

The fascination of an art-interested public with the fragile relationship never waned, indeed hardly another amorous relationship was portrayed so frequently.

The Dutch artist Hubert Gerhard exploited to the fullest nearly all the possibilities of a three-dimensional work of art.

At first glance, seen from the front, the limbs of the nude figures appear to form an indistinct block. However, as the viewer proceeds around the bronze sculpture, an intricate interplay of attraction and repulsion develops.

Mars endeavours with his left leg to persuade Venus of his qualities even as he focuses his gaze upon the flaming heart that Venus holds within reach.

Peter Paul Rubens, Consequences of War, 1637/38, Florence, Palazzo Pitti

Peter Paul Rubens, the great painter of the Baroque and eyewitness to the Thirty Years’ War, relates another version of the love story. Venus vainly attempts to restrain Mars, who appears in full armour. He however follows the fury, Alecto, into battle. Amor is powerless, and Europa, attired in black, is bystander to the appalling scene.

Yet Venus’ loyalty is uncertain, for she is wed to an unattractive albeit important man; mighty Vulcan tirelessly forges weapons and armour for the community of gods.

written by Cäcilia Bischoff, translated by Joshua Stein on 18.12.2018 in #The Face of Europe
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