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Venus and Vulcan

Sketch for the ceiling of the Salón de Alabarderos, Palacio Real, Madrid

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Italian (active Venice, Udine, Würzburg, and Madrid) 1696 - 1770

c. 1765

Oil on canvas

27 3/16 × 34 5/16 inches (69.1 × 87.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 283, European Art 1500-1850, second floor

Accession Number:
Cat. 287

Credit Line:
John G. Johnson Collection, 1917

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aeneid [x]   fire [x]   love [x]   mythology [x]   roman mythology [x]   royal [x]   virgil [x]  

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Venus, the goddess of love, is persuading her estranged husband Vulcan, god of fire and blacksmith to the gods, to make a set of armor for her son Aeneas. The classical subject, which comes from the Aeneid by the Roman poet Virgil, was popular in paintings from the Renaissance onward.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    This painting by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo illustrates the episode in Virgil's Aeneid in which the goddess Venus visits her estranged husband, Vulcan, at his forge on the island of Lemnos. Reclining haughtily on a cloud, she persuades him to make weapons for her son, Aeneas, and, still moved by his desire for her, Vulcan cannot refuse. Traditionally, the painting has been identified as a sketch for part of the ceiling decoration of the guard room in the Palacio Real, Madrid, where such a pseudomartial theme would have been elegantly appropriate. More recently, however, scholars have identified it as the pendant to a painting of Apollo and Daphne, now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Likely painted as overdoors, both paintings turn on themes of seduction and desire among the deities of classical mythology. Christopher Riopelle, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 182.

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