In the foreground, Vulcan has just pulled off the net in which he ensnared his wife Venus and her lover Mars; the other gods, called in by Vulcan, join in the ridicule from above. Seemingly without effort, Hendrick Goltzius integrated two groups of nudes in complex poses, filling out the composition with Cupid at the lower right and Vulcan forging the net in the background.

Goltzius made this drawing as a full-scale model for an engraving in the manner of Bartholomäus Spranger. Spranger's mythological compositions featured complex, erotic poses, and Goltzius adopted the style for a number of drawings and engravings. The engraving after this drawing, Goltzius's largest and most complex in Spranger's style, helped to secure his reputation on its publication in 1585. The inscription on the engraving, HGoltzius invenit sculpsit et divulgavit, confirms that Goltzius acted as designer, engraver, and publisher for the print.


  • Title: Venus and Mars Surprised by Vulcan
  • Creator: Hendrick Goltzius
  • Date Created: 1585
  • Physical Dimensions: 41.6 × 31.3 cm (16 3/8 × 12 5/16 in.)
  • Type: Drawing
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Pen and brown ink, brown wash, white gouache heightening, and black chalk, folded into squares, incised for transfer, lower right corner replaced
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 84.GG.810.1
  • Culture: Dutch
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Creator Display Name: Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558 - 1617)
  • Classification: Drawings (Visual Works)

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