Cupid binds Mars (the god of war) to Venus with a love knot. Visually opulent and sensual, the picture also operates as an allegory and celebrates the civilizing and nurturing effects of love (milk flows from Venus's breast and Mars's horse is restrained). By 1621 it was owned by Emperor Rudolf II, in Prague, along with three other mythological works by the artist (two of these are in the Frick Collection, New York), but its original owner is unknown. These are among Veronese's greatest works, done when at the height of his powers.
Veronese was one of the greatest masters of light and color, and his work had an enduring impact on later artists including Velázquez and Giambattista Tiepolo.
One of Veronese’s greatest works of the 1570s, this painting can first be securely documented in Prague in 1621 while in the collection of the recently deceased Emperor Rudolph II (1552–1612). By that time it was hanging in the same palace as three other mythologies by the artist, two now in the Frick Collection, New York (The Choice between Virtue and Vice, and Wisdom and Strength) and one in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (Hermes, Herse and Aglauro). The paintings traveled together through various significant collections, including that of Queen Christina of Sweden, the Odescalchi family in Rome, and Philippe II, duc d’Orléans, separating in the late eighteenth century. Earlier suggestions that they were painted as a group for the Emperor can be dismissed, and it remains unclear for whom Veronese painted this important work (Salomon 2006 and Mahon et al. 2010).
The painting shows the god and goddess embracing. Mars is clothed in armor and a heavy mantle and seated on a stone base, while Venus is nude, her chemise thrown over a wall, and her deep blue mantle held in front of her thigh by Mars. Her jeweled girdle is slung across her chest like a quiver and she wears other sumptuous jewelry. One hand caresses Mars’s shoulder, while the other cups her breast from which milk flows. One of the two putti ties the lovers together with a ribbon, while the other restrains a bridled horse with Mars’s sword. The figures are set within a garden that contains a ruined wall whose entablature is supported by a herm in the form of a satyr.
X-radiography (first done in the 1920s and again in 2006; see Additional Images, fig. 1) has shown that Veronese worked out many compositional changes on the canvas as he painted. The principal changes include the repositioning of Venus’s head, neck, and shoulders, and the shifting of her proper left leg; the repositioning of Mars’s helmet and of his proper left arm and hand; the painting of the putto over the existing drapery at the lower left; and the deletion of a tree placed at an angle at the right. Despite these major refinements to the composition the subject seems to have remained unchanged from start to finish. There is a growing consensus that the theme concerns the union, or marriage, of Mars and Venus, alluding as well to their conjoining of opposites—War and Love—in a concordia discors. The fertile outcome of such a union, in which Mars is disarmed and Venus’s passion domesticated, is represented by the flow of milk from her breast, and later by the birth of their daughter, Harmonia. The iconography extols marriage, fecundity and the restraint of other passions (Campenhausen 2003; for other interpretations see Wind 1958, Ballarin 1965, and Zeri and Gardner 1973). Recent technical studies have also revealed changes that have taken place to the pigments used by the artist that have an impact on the current appearance of the painting (Mahon et al. 2010).
Inscription: Signed (lower center, on marble fragment): PAVLVS VERONENSIS F
Rudolph II, Holy Roman Emperor, Prague (until d. 1612; ?invs., 1621, no. 1151; ca. 1648, no. 450); his brother, Matthias, Holy Roman Emperor, Prague (1612–d. 1619); his cousin, Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor, Prague (1619–d. 1637); his son, Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor, Prague (1637–48; seized by Swedish troops); Christina, Queen of Sweden, Stockholm, later Rome (1648–d. 1689; abdicated 1654; invs., ?1652, no. 79 or no. 88; ca. 1689, unnumbered); Cardinal Decio Azzolino, Rome (d. 1689); his nephew, marchese Pompeo Azzolino, Rome (1689–96; sold to Odescalchi); principe Livio Odescalchi, duca di Bracciano, Rome (1696–d. 1713); marchese Baldassare Odescalchi-Erba, later principe Odescalchi, Rome (1713–21; inv., 1721, no. 39; sold to Orléans); Philippe II, duc d'Orléans, Palais Royal, Paris (1721–d. 1723); ducs d'Orléans, Palais Royal (1723–85); Louis Philippe Joseph, duc d'Orléans, Palais Royal (1785–92; sold to Walckiers); vicomte Edouard de Walckiers, Brussels (1792; sold to Laborde); his cousin, François de Laborde-Méréville, Paris, later London (1792–98; consigned to Jeremiah Harman; sold to consortium of Bridgewater, Carlisle, and Leveson-Gower); Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle, and George Granville Leveson-Gower, later 1st Duke of Sutherland, London (1798; exhibited for sale, the Lyceum, the Strand, London, December 26, 1798ff., no. 273, for 300 gns. to Elwyn); Hastings Elwyn, Booten, Norfolk (1799–1806; his sale, Phillips, London, May 23, 1806, no. 23); Campbell, London (until 1866; sold to Wimborne); Sir Ivor Bertie Guest, 2nd Baronet, later 1st Baron Wimborne, Canford Manor, Wimborne, Dorset (1866–1903; cat., 1888, no. 31; sale, Christie's, London, May 23, 1903, no. 75, for £6,300); [Lepper]; [Asher Wertheimer, London, 1909–10; sold through Blakeslee to MMA]
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January–March 1881, no. 146 (as "Venus and Mars," by Veronese, lent by Lord Wimborne).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January 5–March 14, 1903, no. 55 (lent by Lord Wimborne).
London. Grafton Galleries. "National Loan Exhibition," October 1909–January 1910, no. 55A (as "Mars and Venus Bound by Love," lent by Asher Wertheimer).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 111.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "In the Presence of Kings: Royal Treasures from the Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 18–June 11, 1967, no. 27.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 16–November 1, 1970, unnumbered cat. (p. 25).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 15, 1970–February 15, 1971, no. 215.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Venetian Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," May 1–September 2, 1974, no catalogue.
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "The Art of Paolo Veronese, 1528–1588," November 13, 1988–February 20, 1989, no. 68 (as "Venus and Mars").
New York. Frick Collection. "Veronese's Allegories: Virtue, Love, and Exploration in Renaissance Venice," April 11–July 16, 2006, no. 3.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice," March 15–August 16, 2009, no. 34.
London. National Gallery. "Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice," March 19–June 15, 2014, no. 32.
Inventarium aller derjenigen sachen, so nach der victori in ihrer majestät schaz- und kunstcamer zue Praag seind gefunden und auf ihrer mayestät und ihrer fürstlich gnaden von Lichtenstein. December 6, 1621, no. 1151 [published in Heinrich Zimmermann, "Das Inventar der Prager Schatz- und Kunstkammer vom 6. Dezember 1621," Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses 25, part 2 (1905), p. XLV], as "Ein schönes stuck, Venus und Mars, vom Paul Ferones. (Orig.)," possibly this picture.
Inventory of Emperor Rudolph II's pictures in Prague. [ca. 1648], no. 450 [Skokloster Castle, Sweden; published in Granberg 1897], as "Mars, Venus vnd zwey Cupido dorbey ein Pfert," by Veronese, possibly this picture.
Inventaire des raritez qui sont dans le cabinet des antiquitez de la sérénissime reine de Suède. 1652, no. 79 or no. 88 [Royal Library, Stockholm; published in part in B. Dudik "Forschungen in Schweden für Mährens Geschichte," Brünn, 1852, p. 104; in M. A. Geffroy, "Notices et extraits des manuscrits," Paris, 1855, pp. 166–67; and in Granberg 1897], as "Un grand tableau représentant un homme accompagné d'une femme et d'un Cupidon avec un cheval derriere" [no. 79] or "Dito, ou est peint un homme, une femme nue et un cheval" [no. 88], one of which is possibly this picture.
Inventario della Regina Christina. 1662–63 [Riksarkivet, Stockholm; Azzolinosaml., vol. 48], possibly includes this picture.
Catalogo dei quadri della regina di Svezia. April 25, 1689, unnumbered [Archivio Palatino, Rome; published in Giuseppe Campori, "Raccolta di cataloghi ed inventarii inediti," Modena, 1870, p. 337; and in Ref. Granberg 1897, no. 5; Getty no. I-2094], as "Un quadro con bel paese con Marte a sedere, e in piedi una Venere ignuda . . . opera insigne di Paolo Veronese . . . ".
Inventory of the estate of Prince Livio Odescalchi. November 1713–April 1714 [Archivio Odescalchi, Rome; inv. no. V.D 2], possibly includes this picture.
Inventario de' quadri dell Gl. Me. della Regina di Suezia. 1721, no. 39 [British Museum, London; published in Ref. Granberg 1897], as "Venere e Marte con veduto di paese, cavallo, ed Amorini, misura simile alla sapienza e cornice comesa," by Veronese.
[Louis François] Du Bois de Saint Gelais. Description des tableaux du Palais Royal. Paris, 1727, pp. 373–74, as "Mars et Vénus liés par l'Amour," 6 pieds 3 pouces x 5 pieds, with description matching this work.
[Louis François] Du Bois de Saint Gelais. Description des tableaux du Palais Royal. 2nd ed. Paris, 1737, pp. 374–75.
Pierre Jean Mariette. Recueil d'estampes d'après les plus beaux tableaux et d'après les plus beaux desseins qui sont en France dans le cabinet du roi, dans celui de monseigneur le duc d'Orléans, & dans d'autres cabinets. Vol. 2, contenant la suite de l'école romaine et l'école vénitienne. Paris, 1742, p. 66, no. XXII, unnumbered pl. (engraving in reverse by Michel Aubert) [2nd ed., 1763, vol. 2, p. 34, no. XXII, pl. 159], calls it "Mars et Vénus liés par l'Amour," but suggests that it could also represent an allegory of voluptuousness; notes elements of Correggio and Parmigianino in the female figure; does not include the signature in the engraving.
J[acques]. Couché. Galerie du Palais Royal, gravée d'après les tableaux des differentes ecoles qui la composem . . . Vol. 2, Paris, 1786, unpaginated, unnumbered, ill. (engraving by Couché), does not include Veronese's signature in the engraving.
A Catalogue of an Unique and Matchless Collection of Pictures . . . property of Hastings Elwyn, Esq. Phillips, London. May 23, 1806, p. 7, no. 23, identifies the figure of Mars as a portrait of Duke Alvares.
W[illiam]. Buchanan. Memoirs of Painting, with a Chronological History of the Importation of Pictures by the Great Masters into England since the French Revolution. London, 1824, vol. 1, p. 135, lists it as having sold to Elwyn for 300 guineas from the Orléans collection; discusses the circumstances of the dispersal of the Orléans collection.
M. Passavant. Tour of a German Artist in England. London, 1836, vol. 2, p. 201, no. 16.
Gustav Friedrich Waagen. Kunstwerke und Künstler in England und Paris. Vol. 1, 1837, p. 513.
G[ustav]. F[riedrich]. Waagen. Works of Art and Artists in England. London, 1838, vol. 1, p. 335, lists it with the Orléans collection, which he states was brought to England in 1792, and adds that it was sold from the Orléans collection to Elwyn for £300, current location unknown.
[Gustav Friedrich] Waagen. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. London, 1854, vol. 2, p. 498.
"The Royal Academy (First Notice)." Athenæum no. 2776 (January 8, 1881), p. 61.
A Catalogue of the Pictures at Canford Manor in the Possession of Lord Wimborne. n.p., 1888, p. 15, no. 31, as bought from Mr. Campbell in 1866.
Pietro Caliari. Paolo Veronese: sua vita e sue opere. Rome, 1888, p. 256 [2nd ed., (1909), p. 256], quotes from the inventory of Queen Christina's collection of about 1689 [see Ref.].
Olof Granberg. La galerie de tableaux de la reine Christine de Suède ayant appartenu auparavant à l'empereur Rodolphe II plus tard aux ducs d'Orléans: recherche historique et critique. Stockholm, 1897, pp. 15, 36, no. 42, App. I, p. XV, App. II, p. XXX, App. III, p. LIII, App. IV, p. XCVI, confuses it with a version of the subject now in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg [see Notes]; identifies it with works included in the inventories of 1648, 1652, 1689, and 1721 [see Refs.]; states that it was sold to Elwyn for 300 guineas in London in 1798.
Victor Champier. Le Palais-Royal. Vol. 1, Du Cardinal de Richelieu à la révolution. Paris, 1900, p. 513, publishes a list made in 1788 of paintings in the Orleans collection intended for sale in England, including the sale prices and names of buyers; reproduces on p. 233 a version of the composition then in the collection of Charles Rossigneux.
Louise M. Richter. "Drei verschollene, kürzlich wiedergefundene Meisterwerke." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 14 (1903), pp. 265–66, ill. p. 264.
"The Old Masters at Burlington House, III." Athenæum no. 3926 (January 24, 1903), pp. 120–21, discusses it as a particularly fine example of Veronese's oeuvre, even though assigning the horse and the putto on the right, as well as parts of the landscape, to an assistant.
Louise M. Richter. "Lord Wimborne's Paolo Veronese." Connoisseur 6 (May–August 1903), pp. 118–19, ill., calls it an early work; notes that it is one of nine allegorical paintings formerly in the collections of Queen Christina and the duc d'Orleans, relating it especially to the "Hermes and Herse" in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; suggests that the two figures might be portraits of an actual pair of lovers.
Roger Fry. Letter to Mary Berenson. January 21, 1903 [published in "Letters of Roger Fry," ed. Denys Sutton, New York, 1972, vol. 1, p. 201], mentions "an astounding Veronese, Lord Wimborne's".
B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "Principal Accessions." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 5 (December 1910), pp. 287–88, ill. on cover, calls it "Mars and Venus bound by Cupid" and dates it about 1575; states that the horse derives from the horses on the façade of Saint Mark's, Venice; identifies it as the work formerly in the collections of Queen Christina and the duc d'Orleans and calls the Hermitage picture a copy; states that Christina's father, Gustavus Adolphus, acquired it at the sack of Prague in 1631.
Guido Cagnola. "Due quadri importanti acquistati da pubblici musei." Rassegna d'arte 11 (January 1911), p. 8, ill., suggests that it represents Martial Force nourished by Beauty.
[Theodor von] Fr[immel]. "New-York." Blätter für Gemäldekunde 6 (January–February 1911), p. 158, ill., wrongly identifies it with the painting mentioned by Ridolfi [see Notes] as having been painted for Emperor Rudolph II.
Kenyon Cox. "Veronese's 'Mars and Venus' at the Metropolitan Museum." Scribner's Magazine 49 (May 1911), pp. 637–40, ill.
Casimir Stryienski. La Galerie du Régent Philippe, duc d'Orléans. Paris, 1913, pp. 56, 155, no. 91, identifies it as no. 273 in the Lyceum sale catalogue, where it sold for 300 guineas to Elwyn; calls the picture in the Hermitage, and a second work in the Bourdon collection, Paris, copies after it.
Detlev von Hadeln. "Paintings by Veronese from the Collection of Kaiser Rudolf the Second." Art in America 1 (October 1913), pp. 235–36, 238, 243–44, fig. 9, identifies it as "Venus und Mars, ein schön stück, von Paulo Ferone" [no. 1151] in the inventory of Emperor Rudolph II's collection [see Ref. 1621]; calls it a companion to the Fitzwilliam picture, and suggests that the two works were painted for the emperor in the late 1570s.
Alan Burroughs. "X-raying the Veronese and the Antonello." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 22 (July 1927), pp. 191–93, ill. (overall and x-ray detail), notes that x-rays reveal changes made by Veronese in the position of Venus's head.
Percy H. Osmond. Paolo Veronese: His Career and Work. London, 1927, pp. 88, 109, 118, pl. 58A, has "but the dimmest recollection of it" and "judging from a photo, . . . cannot help sympathising with Mr. Berenson's rejection"; dates it after 1580; calls the Hermitage picture a copy after it.
Giuseppe Fiocco. Paolo Veronese, 1528–1588. Bologna, 1928, pp. 101, 111 n. 3, pp. 198, 202, accepts Hadeln's [see Ref. 1913] identification with the picture in Emperor Rudolph's collection; calls the "Mars and Venus" in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, a variant of it.
G[iorgio]. Nicodemi. "Centenarii di grandi artisti, Paolo Veronese." Emporium 68 (December 1928), p. 343.
Adolfo Venturi. Paolo Veronese. Milan, 1928, p. 210 n. 1.
Adolfo Venturi. Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 9, part 4, La pittura del Cinquecento. Milan, 1929, p. 950 n. 1.
Alan Burroughs. "Veronese's Alterations in His Painting of Mars and Venus." Metropolitan Museum Studies 3 (1930–31), pp. 47–54, figs. 1–7 (overall, x-ray details, sketch).
Lionello Venturi. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931, unpaginated, pl. CCCCXVIII.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 423, lists it as by Veronese.
Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America. Vol. 3, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century. New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 571, states that it was made for the Emperor Rudolph II and incorrectly identifies it as the work mentioned by Borghini and Ridolfi [see Notes], therefore dating it between 1576 and 1584.
Giuseppe Fiocco. Paolo Veronese. Rome, , pp. 75–76, 121, 127.
Robert Eisler. Letter to Gisela Richter. September 14, 1934, interprets the subject as "Heracles adopted by Hera through the lactation rite combined with the passage through her clothes".
Hans Tietze. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935, p. 331, pl. 105 [English ed., "Masterpieces of European Painting in America," New York, 1939, p. 315, pl. 105], as made for Emperor Rudolph between 1576 and 1584; dates it about 1580 in the caption to the plate.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 364.
Alan Burroughs. Art Criticism from a Laboratory. Boston, 1938, pp. 93–96, fig. 23.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 203–6, ill., notes that the traditional title of "Mars and Venus United by Love" does not adequately explain the gestures of either Mars or Venus, and mentions Eisler's [see Ref. 1934] alternate interpretation of the subject, along with one of Edgar Wind [without noting source], who believes that the two main figures are portraits and that the picture commemorates a marriage; tentatively identifies it with the picture mentioned by Ridolfi [see Notes] and with no. 450 in the inventory of Emperor Rudolph's collection of about 1648 [see Ref.].
Rodolfo Pallucchini. Veronese. 2nd ed. Bergamo, 1943, p. 40, fig. 123, as painted for Emperor Rudolph between 1576 and 1584, along with the two paintings now in the Frick.
Rodolfo Pallucchini. La pittura veneziana del Cinquecento. Novara, 1944, vol. 2, p. XXXI, pl. 85.
Richard C. Jebb. "The Classical Renaissance." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 5 (November 1946), p. 79, ill.
Art Treasures of the Metropolitan: A Selection from the European and Asiatic Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1952, p. 228, no. 111, colorpl. 111.
Luisa Vertova. Veronese. Milan, 1952, unpaginated, pl. 106.
Erica Tietze-Conrat. "Due componimenti morali di Paolo Veronese." Arte veneta 7 (1953), p. 93, mentions it in a discussion of the Frick paintings, which she believes never belonged to Emperor Rudolph.
Theodore Rousseau Jr. "A Guide to the Picture Galleries." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12, part 2 (January 1954), ill. p. 23.
R[oger].-A. d'Hulst. De tekeningen van Jakob Jordaens. Brussels, 1956, pp. 201, 263, 354, publishes a drawing after this picture by Jordaens, describing it as a copy after a painting by Veronese which exists in several versions.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Venetian School. London, 1957, vol. 1, p. 134; vol. 2, pl. 1090, as "Venus and Mars united by Love"; dates it 1576–84.
Charles Biederman. The New Cézanne: From Monet to Mondriaan. Red Wing, Minn., 1958, p. 69, figs. 39 (diagram of concentrics), 40.
Edgar Wind. Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance. London, 1958, p. 84, fig. 56, discusses the subject, calling it a very involved allegory and explaining it as "Fortezza" submissive to "Carità".
Giuliano Briganti. "La Venere di Casa Colonna di Paolo Veronese." Arte veneta 12 (1958), p. 91, identifies it, along with the pictures in the Frick and the Fitzwilliam, as allegories painted for Rudolph II.
Federico Zeri. "Paolo Veronese: Una reliquia del 'Marte e Venere' dipinto per Rodolfo II." Paragone 10 (September 1959), pp. 43–44, pl. 27, rejects the identification of this picture with the one mentioned by Ridolfi, which he believes to be a painting now lost, except for a fragment (pl. 28; private collection, Pontremoli), and known only through a copy (pl. 29; private collection, Florence); identifies the lost work as one included in the inventory of Queen Christina's collection of about 1689 and last heard of when sold with the Orléans collection in London in 1800.
Erica Tietze-Conrat. "'Paolo Veronese "armato"' (Ridolfi II, 225)." Arte veneta 13–14 (1959–60), pp. 96–97, rejects the association with the Fitzwilliam picture, and calls the MMA painting the pendant of the picture discussed by Zeri [see Ref. 1959].
Giuliano Briganti. "Un altro frammento del 'Marte e Venere' di Paolo Veronese dipinto per Rodolfo d'Asburgo." Paragone 11 (May 1960), p. 32, accepts Zeri's [see Ref. 1959] identification of the picture mentioned by Ridolfi with the lost work from this series, and publishes another fragment of the original, a half-length figure of Mars (private collection, Rome).
Alessandro Ballarin. "Osservazioni sui dipinti veneziani del Cinquecento nella Galleria del Castello di Praga." Arte veneta 19 (1965), p. 80, calls it Juno adopting Hercules and dates it about 1580.
Roger-A. d'Hulst. Tekeningen van Jacob Jordaens, 1593–1678. Exh. cat., Rubenshuis. Antwerp, 1966, p. 87, under no. 66, states that Jordaens's copy after this painting was made in Antwerp in 1654, when Queen Christina's collection was en route to Rome from Sweden.
Ellis Waterhouse. "Queen Christina's Italian Pictures in England." Queen Christina of Sweden: Documents and Studies. Ed. Magnus von Platen. Stockholm, 1966, p. 375, no. 78.
Christina, Queen of Sweden—a Personality of European Civilisation. Exh. cat., Nationalmuseum. Stockholm, 1966, p. 431, under no. 1044, p. 485, under no. 1199, p. 486, under no. 1201.
J. W. Goodison and G. H. Robertson. Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge: Catalogue of Paintings. Vol. 2, Italian Schools. Cambridge, 1967, pp. 125–27 n. 5, under no. 143, accept the identification of this picture with the one mentioned by Borghini [see Notes]; question the assumption that the Fitzwilliam, MMA, and Frick pictures formed a series, noting their differing sizes and the circumstantial nature of the evidence.
Michael Jaffé. Jacob Jordaens, 1593–1678. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Canada. Ottawa, , p. 216, under no. 253.
Remigio Marini inL'opera completa del Veronese. Milan, 1968, pp. 120–21, no. 205, ill. p. 121 and colorpl. LIX, dates it about 1580.
Calvin Tomkins. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1970, p. 169 [rev., enl. ed., 1989].
S. J. Freedberg. Painting in Italy: 1500 to 1600. Harmondsworth, England, 1971, p. 382, dates it between 1576 and 1584, along with the pictures in the Frick and the Fitzwilliam.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 39, 473, 606.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Venetian School. New York, 1973, pp. 84–87, pl. 97, date it in the 1570s and discuss the subject; note that it probably belonged to Emperor Rudolph and may even have been commissioned by him but is not the work mentioned by either Borghini or Ridolfi; state that although the Frick, Fitzwilliam, and MMA paintings "are similar in size and all have complicated allegories for subject matter, there is as yet no conclusive evidence that they originally constituted a series".
Bernard Berenson. Looking at Pictures with Bernard Berenson. Ed. Hanna Kiel. New York, 1974, pp. 344–45, ill. (color).
Reinhold Baumstark. "Ikonographische Studien zu Rubens Kriegs-und Friedensallegorien." Aachener Kunstblätter 45 (1974), pp. 158, 219 n. 293.
Ronald Paulson. Emblem and Expression: Meaning in English Art of the Eighteenth Century. Cambridge, Mass., 1975, pp. 12–13, fig. 1, discusses the subject.
Frederick S. Wight. The Potent Image: Art in the Western World from Cave Paintings to the 1970s. New York, 1976, ill. p. 140, dates it about 1576.
Terisio Pignatti. Veronese. Venice, 1976, vol. 1, pp. 91–92, 147–50, 153, no. 248; vol. 2, figs. 578, 580 (overall and detail), doubts that the four allegories were originally together; notes that they are usually dated after 1576 and adds that he does not believe they can postdate 1580.
Hugh Brigstocke. Italian and Spanish Paintings in the National Gallery of Scotland. [Edinburgh], 1978, pp. 183–84 n. 8.
Detlev von Hadeln. Paolo Veronese. Ed. Gunter Schweikhart. Florence, 1978, pp. 83, 159–60, 220, no. 208, fig. 73.
Terisio Pignatti in collaboration with Kenneth Donahue inThe Golden Century of Venetian Painting. Exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles, 1979, p. 27, assumes that the allegories were painted for Emperor Rudolph and calls them contemporaneous with Veronese's decoration of the Sala del Collegio, Doge's Palace, Venice, of 1575–77.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 277, 284, 286, fig. 515 (color).
Richard Cocke. Veronese. London, 1980, pp. 14, 73, pl. 39.
Kurt Badt DuMont. Paolo Veronese. Cologne, 1981, pp. 38, 242–43, pl. 209.
Rodolfo Pallucchini. Veronese. Milan, 1984, pp. 114–17, 126, 128, 182, no. 174, ill. pp. 182 (black and white) and 115–17 (color, overall and details), dates it about 1578–80.
Richard Cocke. Veronese's Drawings. Ithaca, N.Y., 1984, p. 250, n. 3, comments that it "fits with mythologies which I would date to the 1560s"; notes that no. 1151 in Emperor Rudolph's inventory of 1621 [see Ref.] could be either the MMA painting or the lost painting known through copies and fragments; does not believe it to be the work mentioned by Borghini.
Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann. "Éros et poesia: la peinture à la cour de Rodolphe II." Revue de l'art no. 69 (1985), pp. 35, 44 n. 54, fig. 13, states that the allegorical paintings were made for Emperor Rudolph at the beginning of his reign.
Stefania Mason Rinaldi inLa pittura in Italia: il Cinquecento. Ed. Giuliano Briganti. revised and expanded ed. [Milan], 1988, vol. 1, p. 193, colorpl. 266, dates it about 1580.
W. R. Rearick. The Art of Paolo Veronese, 1528–1588. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1988, pp. 15, 122, 130, 133–34, 136, no. 68, ill. (color), calls it "one of the artist's supreme masterpieces" and almost certainly the work mentioned by Borghini; also includes Ridolfi in the literature on the painting; dates it "1577, or more probably early 1578"; rejects Juno adopting Hercules as the subject, and finds that the composition fits with Veronese's "most familiar approach to the Venus and Mars legend . . . as a metaphor for the peaceful, civilizing power of love over male aggressiveness".
Richard Cocke. "Washington: Paolo Veronese." Burlington Magazine 131 (January 1989), p. 64, dates the Frick pictures before 1567 and states that "the sun-filled handling of [the MMA work] resembles that of paintings which are documented to the 1560s"; implies that these works were not commissioned by Emperor Rudolph but were acquired by him second-hand.
Peter Watson. Wisdom and Strength: The Biography of a Renaissance Masterpiece. New York, 1989, pp. 56, 61–63, 96, 253, discusses it as one of seven paintings commissioned from Veronese by Rudolph, all of which he dates between 1576 and 1584.
Klara Garas. "Veronese e il collezionismo del nord nel XVI–XVII secolo." Nuovi studi su Paolo Veronese. Ed. Massimo Gemin. Venice, 1990, pp. 17, 19–20, 23 n. 15, p. 24 n. 19, believes that the works were not commissioned by Rudolph, although later acquiried by him.
Richard Cocke. "Wit and Humour in the Work of Paolo Veronese." Artibus et Historiae no. 21 (1990), pp. 138–39, fig. 17, compares it with Mantegna's "Parnassus" (Musée du Louvre, Paris), painted for Isabella d'Este about sixty years earlier; remarks that the picture's entertaining and diverting details detract from the erotic potential of the subject.
Egon Verheyen. "Veronese in America: Preliminary Observations." Paolo Veronese: Fortuna critica und künstlerisches Nachleben. Ed. Jürg Meyer zur Capellen and Bernd Roeck. Sigmaringen, 1990, p. 140, discusses it as "the first major Veronese painting to enter a [U.S.] public collection".
Terisio Pignatti and Filippo Pedrocco. Veronese: catalogo completo dei dipinti. Florence, 1991, p. 242, no. 165, ill., date it to the end of the 1570s.
Clare Robertson. Veronese. London, 1992, p. 28.
Lorenzo Gnocchi. Paolo Veronese fra artisti e letterati. [Florence], 1994, pp. 86–87, fig. 39.
Terisio Pignatti and Filippo Pedrocco. Veronese. Milan, 1995, vol. 1, pp. 317–19, 378, 382, 422, no. 265, ill. (color and black and white).
Eliot W. Rowlands. The Collections of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: Italian Paintings, 1300–1800. Kansas City, Mo., 1996, p. 197, dates it to Veronese's final years.
Diana Gisolfi inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 32, New York, 1996, p. 353, dates it about 1580.
Terisio Pignatti. "Vita e arte." Paolo Veronese. 2000, pp. 34, 36, ill. p. 37 (detail).
Richard Cocke. Paolo Veronese: Piety and Display in an Age of Religious Reform. Aldershot, England, 2001, pp. 25–28, fig. 0.15.
Britta von Campenhausen. "eloquente Pittore, pingente oratore": Studien zu mythologisch-allegorischen Gemälden Paolo Veroneses. Munich, 2003, p. 1 passim, pl. 3, dates it about 1578; identifies it as no. 1151 in the inventory of 1621 of Emperor Rudolph's collection and as no. 450 in the inventory of about 1648 [see Refs.].
Filippo Pedrocco inVeronese: Gods, Heroes and Allegories. Exh. cat., Musée du Luxembourg, Paris. Milan, 2004, p. 113.
Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Venice and the Veneto." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 63 (Summer 2005), p. 20, fig. 17 (color).
Richard Cocke. Veronese. rev. ed. London, 2005, pp. 26, 90, pl. 43.
Xavier F. Salomon. Veronese's Allegories: Virtue, Love, and Exploration in Renaissance Venice. Exh. cat., Frick Collection. New York, 2006, pp. 9–10, 13–14, 17–18, 20–21, 24, 26, 29–30, 34, 38, 40, 47–48, no. 3, fig. 3 (color) and ill. p. 47 (color), dates it to the first half of the 1570s, based on "its tonal range, the soft contours of the figures, and the tighter brushwork"; rejects the idea that the four allegories are a set and that they were commissioned by Emperor Rudolph II; believes that both the Ridolfi and Borghini citations [see Notes] may refer to the MMA picture, noting that Borghini does not specify which emperor commissioned the works and that he was probably referring to Maximilian II rather than Rudolph II; states that the closest parallels to Veronese's allegories are found in Dosso Dossi's allegorical paintings, mentioning Titian's mythological works as another influence; states that Mars's body is probably based on the "Torso Belvedere" (Musei Vaticani, Rome).
John Garton. Grace and Grandeur: The Portraiture of Paolo Veronese. London, 2008, p. 81 n. 75, contrasts the "bright light, high key colors, and delicate shadows" here to the "earthy palette and earthbound nudes" of Titian's allegorical paintings; states that "Veronese transforms the turbulent chaos of the myth into a harmonic image of jest, a cultivated way of domesticating and extending the impulses of the amorous protagonists".
David Rosand in Frederick Ilchman. Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 2009, pp. 189, 191, 194, ill. p. 193 (color), states that "although listed in the imperial inventories, it is not at all clear for whom the painting was made, whether it was invented for a particular occasion or as an allegorical statement of general appeal"; calls it the artist's most successful depiction of noble love triumphing over base passion.
Patricia Fortini Brown in Frederick Ilchman. Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 2009, pp. 59, 268 n. 104, states that it is not known whether any or all of the Veronese pictures owned by Emperor Rudolph II were commissioned by him or were painted for some palace in Venice and later resold.
Robert Echols and Frederick Ilchman in Frederick Ilchman. Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 2009, p. 227, mention its "rich, autumnal glow".
Frederick Ilchman in Frederick Ilchman. Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 2009, pp. 263, 294–95, no. 34, ill. p. 6 (color, cropped).
Arturo Galansino inTitien, Tintoret, Véronèse . . . Rivalités à Venise. Ed. Vincent Delieuvin et al. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2009, pp. 312, 430 n. 65, fig. 136 (color).
Dorothy Mahon et al. "Technical Study of Three Allegorical Paintings by Paolo Veronese: 'The Choice between Virtue and Vice', 'Wisdom and Strength', and 'Mars and Venus United by Love'." Metropolitan Museum Studies in Art, Science, and Technology 1 (2010), pp. 83–84, 86, 88–89, 97–98, 100–105, figs. 5, 19 (color), 20 (x-ray radiograph mosaic), 21–23 (x-ray radiograph details), 25–29 (cross sections of paint layers).
Rochelle Ziskin. Sheltering Art: Collecting and Social Identity in Early Eighteenth-Century Paris. University Park, Pa., 2012, pp. 130, 301–2 n. 38, fig. 84.
David Rosand. Véronèse. Paris, 2012, pp. 296, 300, 303, colorpl. 254.
Xavier F. Salomon. Veronese. Exh. cat., National Gallery. London, 2014, pp. 174–76, 186, 194, 233 n. 20, 259, no. 32, colorpl. 127, ill. p. 259 (color).
Enrica Camerin inPaolo Veronese: l'illusione della realtà. Ed. Paola Marini and Bernard Aikema. Exh. cat., Palazzo della Gran Guardia, Verona. Milan, 2014, p. 226, under no. 4.2.
Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, p. 278, no. 194, ill. pp. 195, 278 (color).
The frame is Venetian and dates to about 1530–40, perhaps later (see Additional Images, figs. 2–5). This gilded cassetta or box frame is richly and boldly carved and embellished, though uncharacteristically made of poplar. Its acanthus inner molding is within a cushioned frieze which is ornamented with Sansovinesque paterae: oval floral medallions which are linked together and terminate at acanthus corners. The deep cove rises above pearling on small curved brackets which support a top edge composed of half-cabled raking flutes, angled from a center point. With its deep profile and unfinished sides the frame probably originated as an architectural ceiling molding. Its later, glazed, overgilded surface is silver leaf which may have been applied in the Veneto in the early eighteenth century.
[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2015; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]
The work has sometimes been confused with a painting of Venus and Mars mentioned by Borghini (Il riposo, 1584, p. 563) as commissioned by an unspecified emperor, and by Carlo Ridolfi (Le maraviglie dell'arte, 1648, vol. 1, p. 320) as one of three works commissioned from Veronese by Emperor Rudolph II.
Copies of the Museum's painting include one formerly in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg (cat., 1869, no. 151), and another formerly in the Bourdon collection, Château de Bourré, Bourré, France (sold, Sotheby's, New York, January 30, 1998, no. 245).
Jacob Jordaens made a drawing after this picture in 1654 in Antwerp, when Queen Christina's collection was en route from Sweden to Rome (J. Q. van Regteren Altena, Amsterdam).
This painting was engraved by Michel Aubert in reverse (Mariette 1742) and by Jacques Couché (Couché 1786).