Mars, Venus and Cupid

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Mars, Venus and Cupid about 1580
Venus gently comforts her son Cupid, who is startled by a lively little spaniel. This incidental detail enhances the immediate appeal of the mythological characters. The sensuous goddess of love, swathed in luxurious fabric, rests on Mars' knee. It is thought that the god of war may have been included late on in the design (possibly by an assistant) because only the figures of Venus and Cupid appear in related preparatory drawings (British Museum, London). The very sketchy treatment of Cupid's wings suggests that the painting may have been left unfinished.

Glossary Open


Refers to figures and events from myths which are the ancient stories that usually explain the origins of historical or natural phenomena.



  • Acc. No. NG 339
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Size 165.20 x 126.50 cm (framed: 214.63 x 175.26 x 13.97 cm)
  • Credit Purchased by the Royal Institution 1859; transferred to the National Gallery of Scotland 1867