Under a lavish, tasseled canopy, the gods Mars and Venus make love on a bed surrounded by flying putti carrying decorative bunches of fruit. Mars, the god of war, has thrown down his elaborate shield and feathered helmet at the foot of the bed, while a putto plays with his sword. A fifth putto peers around the curtain to observe the adulterers.

Abraham Bloemaert used the body of Venus as the drawing's central feature. As she curves around Mars, her body forms a grand diagonal sweep that flows up through the drawing, leading the viewer's eye up to the top of the canopy. Bloemaert's deft handling of his materials and his technique give the scene immediacy and vigor. By varying the length and the curve of the same strokes of parallel hatching, he indicated both the lighting and the volume of the forms. The white bodycolor heightening adds to the sense of animation.

The high degree of finish suggests to scholars that Bloemaert made this drawing as a model for an engraving that was never completed or as a presentation sheet for a patron.


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