• The Forge of Vulcan

The Forge of Vulcan

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The Forge of Vulcan
Artist: Diego Velazquez
Oil painting on canvas; Size: 223x290cm; Museo del Prado, Madrid.

The Forge of Vulcan was painted in 1630, during Velazquez first stay in Rome, the painting may have formed part of a trilogy based on the theme of trickery that included Joseph's Bloody Coat Brought to Jacob and The Brawl between Spanish and Italian Soldiers, pictures in which the same models can be recognized. In the first case the trick is the one related in Genesis, played by Joseph's brothers on their father, in the second case a banal quarrel between cardplayers over cheating. This painting, however, is based on Ovid's Metamorphoses , a collection of Greek and Latin myths written in the 1st century AD that for centuries would be a primary source of inspiration for artists. We are in the forge of Vulcan, blacksmith of gods and heroes, often represented a little crooked as a reminder of the fact that he was lame. He is fashioning a piece of armor with his assistants the Cyclopes when he is interrupted by the appearance of the sun god Apollo, who tells Vulcan of his wife Venus's infidelity with Mars. The painter represents the moment in which the deception is revealed and captures the different psychological reactions of the figures, who look as if they are frozen in a scene from a drama. The painting composition reflects Velazquez's study of ancient reliefs and classical statues, as well as his familiarity with Raphael tapestries in the Vatican and the different academic poses: the bodies are shown from a variety of perspectives, frontal, behind and in profile, and in attitudes of repose or tension. The conde-duque de Olivares donated the painting to Philip IV, who hung it in the Buen Retiro.

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