Mars, Venus and Amor

Bartholomäus Spranger

Photo: UMJ/N. Lackner

Bartholomäus Spranger (1546–1611)

Mars, Venus and Cupid

Oil on canvas

Inv. no. 67

Mars, Venus and Amor


Under Emperor Rudolf II (1576–1612), the Habsburg Court in Prague becomes a leading centre of late Renaissance art. The court painter is the Flemish Bartholomew Spranger. His work indicates a fondness for the refined, for the maniera. The mannerist period owes its name to this.


The union of Mars and Venus is not only an example of mythical eroticism, but also of the ambivalence of human nature, which despite everything still finds harmonious unity. Harmonia is also the name of the child, who emerges from the relation between the two gods. Behind this is concealed an allegory to peace: Love triumphs over war. Amor triumphs over the weapons of Mars.


Despite its subtle presentation, behind this lovemaking of Mars and Venus lies a serious truth of which contemporary protagonists are only too aware: for it is not Cupid but Mars who rules the hour. Around 1600 Europe is beset by seemingly endless wars, conflicts of faith and power struggles. In these circumstances, the triumph of love is nothing more than a distant pipe dream.

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