The Horrors of War

size(cm): 80x130
Sale price£355 GBP


Commissioned by the Italian Duke Ferdinando II de Medici, The Horrors of War was painted between 1637 and 1638 and today hangs in the Palatine Gallery of Palazzo Pitti in Florence. Although the painting portrays Mars, the Roman god of war, marching from the Temple of Janus urged on by Alecto, the fury of war, and held back by Venus, depicted in typical voluptuous Rubenesque fashion, Rubens is believed to have employed the allegory of Roman mythology. as a political commentary on the Thirty Years' War, which at the time had raged across Europe for two decades.

In the painting you see Mars, the god of war, presented with a choice. Should he continue his march to war, or should he show mercy and withdraw? Figures representing the different qualities of war and peace surround him, encouraging him to follow their example. Alecto, one of the three goddesses of revenge (known as the Furies), pushes him forward, while Venus, the goddess of love, tries to hold him back.

On the left, a woman symbolizing Europe raises her arms in anguish at the prospect of war. On the right, the realities of war are laid bare: the monsters of Plague and Famine spit fire on a cowering mass of bodies that embody the joys of peacetime: Harmony, Fertility, Motherhood and Charity.

Despite the artist's compelling illustration of Rubens' The Horrors of War, contemporary viewers would have known that war is in the nature of Mars, and that even the tempting persuasions of his lover Venus will not be enough to stop them. stop it.

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