Venus at the forge of Vulcan | Le Nain brothers | 1641

Venus at the forge of Vulcan | Le Nain brothers | 1641

Venus at the forge of Vulcan | Le Nain brothers | 1641

The brothers Le Nain are a weird case. The 3 were born with a short difference of age and they chose the same path: to become artists. They put their workshop in Paris and they worked together. As expected, the close Le Nain developed similar styles. And, as they all signed their works only with their last name, it is difficult to distinguish if a painting if from one or another. As if they were an only entity, the Le Nains even painted together one canvas.

Generally, they devoted to scenes with peasants so,  Venus at the forge of Vulcan, is an exception among their work.

The painting references the Roman god Vulcan, the god of fire. As he had the ability to handle fire, he had a forge where he worked the steel. Venus, the goddess of love (and also Vulcan’s wife) goes to his workshop to ask him armor to their son Aeneas.

The scene of this work was also painted by Diego Velázquez and Francesco Solimena. So, we know that it is not an original motif. However, each of them is really different. In the bothers Le Nain’s version, we see Venus approaching his husband with their still young Aeneas. We notice that, while the figures of Venus and their son are idealized, like taken from a renaissance painting; the figure of Vulcan is really pedestrian. He doesn’t look like a god, but an ordinary man with a clear lack of concern for personal hygiene. We also realized that this is a mythical scene because Venus appears almost naked in a forge filled with tough men. If this was a real scene, I guess that the god would end up bad, 😉

The intention of the brother Le Nain is pretty clear. As the contraposition between the idealization of Venus and the earthly Vulcan; we notice that the woman and her child appear clearly lighten, while men remain in the shade. We do not know about why this is like that, so we can only guess…  

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~ by Álvaro Mazzino on January 11, 2011.

3 Responses to “Venus at the forge of Vulcan | Le Nain brothers | 1641”

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