- The mythological god of war, Mars is the son of Jupiter and Juno and his attributes are the helmet, shield, and spear or sword. His illicit affair with Venus was discovered by Vulcan, her consort. In retaliation, Mars punished Cupid for causing him to fall in love with the goddess, an episode rendered by Bartolomeo Manfredi in his Cupid Punished by Mars (1605-1610; Chicago, Art Institute). In Sandro Botticelli's Mars and Venus (c. 1482; London, National Gallery), the god is shown asleep, perhaps to denote the power of love over war. In Paolo Veronese's Mars and Venus United by Love (c. 1570; New York, Metropolitan Museum), the coupling of these two figures carries similar connotations, in this case of political significance to Emperor Rudolph II of Prague, who commissioned the work. Diego Velázquez (c. 1639-1641; Madrid, Prado) showed Mars at the foot of the bed after his amorous encounter with Venus and discovery by Vulcan, while Annibale Carracci presented him paying the adulterer's fee in the background of his Venus Adorned by the Graces (1594-1595; Washington, National Gallery).
Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. Lilian H. Zirpolo. 2008.