Venus and Mars, Jacques Louis David

Venus and Mars, Jacques Louis David
Venus and Mars, Jacques Louis David

If we were to name an artist eager to revive the classical tradition of the Renaissance years after its glory days had ended, it would be, without a doubt, the neoclassical artist Jaques Louis David. In his canvases one can easily trace the inspiration of the Greek and Roman models that were recovered in the Renaissance period from his initial works to his last canvases; in fact, the work that we are analyzing here is the last of the great compositions that the artist made in Brussels during the time of his exile

Jaques Louis David (1748 – 1825) lost his father very soon, so he was taken care of by his aunt and uncle who provided him with a careful education. He became part of Boucher's workshop, who in turn led him to another workshop, this time that of master Joseph Marie Vien, and later he entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris. The artist opted for the long-awaited scholarship to study in Rome for several years, but it was not until the fifth attempt that he actually managed to travel to Italy, a fact that would have a significant influence on him throughout his career.

David was a painter closely linked to the political situation of his time, first with the Republic of Robespierre and later with the Napoleonic empire for whom he made numerous works. It was precisely his friendship with Napoleon that forced him into exile in Brussels when the Bourbon monarchy was restored in France andIt was precisely there that he executed the work we are discussing here, Mars and Venus, also known as Mars disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces.


This is a large, vertical format oil painting measuring about three hundred and ten centimeters in height and just over two hundred and sixty-five centimeters in width and which is currently on display at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Belgium. The work dates from 1822 and took almost three years to complete. In it we observe two of the best-known lovers of classical mythology, Mars and Venus, who had already been represented on numerous occasions by artists of all ages, such as Boticelli with his famous table of Venus and Mars.

The scene appears set in Olympus, the house of the gods, in the background we can see Hellenic-style architecture; a tetrastyle temple with Corinthian columns, entablature and cornice. The characters appear in front of the construction, Mars the god of war seems to have just arrived and lies down on the sofa while his lover strips him of his weapons, helped by a cupid who on the ground is busy taking off the god's sandals and the Three Graces: one of them serves him the drink while another holds his shield and the last holds the god's helmet.

I will give special attention to the posture of the protagonists, with a marked diagonal that dominates the entire canvas and contrasts with the verticality of the Graces and the horizontality that marks thebackground construction. In the ingrown skin treatment you can see the influence of the pompier style, a trend developed by some of David's disciples like Gros.

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