Mars Being Disarmed by Venus Jacques Louis David Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Mars being disarmed by Venus was the last painting by Jacques-Louis David. He began work on the painting in 1822 when he was 73, and finished it nearly three years later in 1824.

Although he was exiled and living in Brussels during the period when the painting was produced, he sent the work to Paris for inclusion in an exhibition, concerned about the ascendance of romanticism and the burgeoning retreat of neo-classism. David swore that the painting would be his last, and it was. He died in an accident in 1825, soon after the painting was completed.

The painting is a massive 10 feet in height, and is nearly the same width. However, it is not only impressive because of its size. David had stated that he was going to produce his best work last, and this painting does not disappoint. It depicts the submission of the god Mars to the goddess Venus, and is set at a temple laced with gold that floats among the clouds. Mars lounges on a couch, with Venus draped next to him, offering him love and peace while she and her followers remove the paraphernalia associated with Mars and war. The three graces and Cupid all hold a piece of his weaponry – his weapons, shield, helmet, and armor.

He seems utterly unbothered by this intrusion as Venus crowns him with roses, which are associated with the pleasures of the flesh, as she reaches to place it upon his head. David painted this piece in oil on canvas, as was predominant in the early 17th Century. This type of paint allowed for the development of larger pieces such as ‘Mars being disarmed by Venus, because of its opaque and vivid colours. However, this painting is dominated with whites, ivories and the colours associated with neo-classical skin tones, framed with the grey of the clouds below and the deep blue of the sky surrounding the temple.

A cloak of striking reddish-brown is spread across much of the couch on which Mars sits, adding a block of colour to the centre of the painting, contrasting with the pale skin-tones of Venus and her followers. Although it is known as neo-classical, the painting does include several differences from most of the paintings produced in this style. One example is that Venus has been painted somewhat differently than usual; although naked she is less curvaceous than usually seen in such paintings.

It is not known why David included these subtle differences, but it is known that he was disappointed with the changes occurring in the art world towards romanticism, and may well have painted this last neo-classical piece to rebel against the modern movement. Mars being disarmed by Venus was displayed in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels, Belgium in 2007, where it was placed in the main hall near to the entrance of the museum.