The Dutch history painter Joachim Wtewael is widely admired for his astonishing small paintings on copper. The Getty Museum’s Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan is one of his finest works in this unusually demanding medium. Though only eight inches high, this Mannerist painting contains eleven figures in three different spaces, captured in a dramatically charged moment from the famous story told by Ovid in his Metamorphoses.
The author’s detailed analysis of Wtewael’s painting also serves as a fine introduction to Dutch art of the Golden Age. Illustrated with seventy reproductions of paintings, drawings, etchings, and decorative objects, Anne W. Lowenthal’s study ranges over the broad historical and cultural context in which Mars and Venus was created.