Mars and Venus, c. 1510-1512

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The difference between masculine and feminine psychology is marked, in mythology, by the love between Mars, the god of the war, and Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. The two gods often appear in Renaissance paintings connected with marriage and destined to decorate bedrooms.

Jacopo de’ Barbari’s engraving follows the conventional representation of the two characters, one dressed in full armor, the other in all the splendor of her naked body. Cupid (from the Latin word cupido, “desire”), the god of erotic love, is represented here as an innocent child in the arms of his mother Venus. The trio forms the perfect image of an ideal family, where the father protects and cares for his beautiful, defenseless wife and for his tender baby.

Mars and Venus
Artist Life
(Venice), c. 1460/70–before 1516
Accession Number
Ambroise Firmin-Didot, Lugt 119 (1790-1876), Paris (until d. 1876, his sale, Paris, April 16-May 12, 1877, lot 1724, for 710 fr.). Baron Adalbert Freiherr von Lanna, Lugt 2773 (1836-1909), Prague (until d. 1909; his fourth sale, Lepke, Berlin, May 22, 1911, no. 798, as "beautiful sheet, exquisite impression, the left side is not completely printed and some contours are traced with a pen"). Paul Davidsohn, Lugt 654 (until 1920; his sale, C.G. Boerner, Leipzig, May 3-8, 1920, no. 280, as "early and very strong impression, but not evenly printed on the left, and was supplemented with pen on the arm of Mars where it was disturbed), ill., plate VIII, for 27,500 M); [Fredrick Keppel, 1920]; Herschel V. Jones (until d. 1928; bequeathed to Mia, with lifetime trust to Jones family, until 1968)
Catalogue Raisonne
Hind 13; Bartsch 20
Curator Approved

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