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Joachim Wtewael, Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan, 1601

This meticulously painted little work is a typical example of the Mannerist style, which was in fashion around 1600. The style is characterised by naked figures in complex graceful poses. Joachim Wtewael painted this work on smooth copper, which lends itself well to painting fine details.

The painting depicts the adultery of Venus and Mars. Venus’ husband Vulcan – standing with his back to us on the left – has caught the couple in the act, and is exposing the deceit to the gods who have gathered around.

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