L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Vulcain surprenant Vénus et Mars dans le lit avant une assemblée des Dieux, by Johann Heiss, 1679

Translation: Vulcan surprising Venus [his wife, of course] and Mars in bed before an an assembly of the gods. Oopsy....

"Cover up, darling, we have company...." Cupid, who's been hiding under the bed - hmm? - is being kicked in the face by his dear, sweet mother.
Vulcan makes his now rather superfluous denunciation. And Neptune's queen, Salacia, seems somewhat less than shocked by the revelation.
Sitting next to her husband Jupiter on their little cloud, Juno is either covering her eyes or perhaps shading them to get a better view. In the
front, Mercury is being distracted by a rather clingy Flora (?), while Faunus, always distinctly interested in any sexual shenanigans, leans on
the balustrade, trying to see around them. In the center of the group, Ceres, Diana, and Minerva are surely gossiping about the awkward turn
of events while, above, the nymph Chloris, Apollo's executive assistant, flies past, scattering flowers, just going about her business like any
other day. And at top right, scythe over his shoulder, Chronos appears to be perusing the scene in greater detail with the use of a... spyglass!
Show-off Apollo wafts in. Chariot, horses, and all. Troublemaker, it seems that he's the one who tipped off Vulcan in the first place.


Johann Heiss (19 June 1640, Memmingen - 1704, Augsburg), German Baroque painter. After training in his birthplace of Memmingen with the father and son painters Hans Conrad Sichelbein and Johann Sichelbein, he went to Stuttgart in 1663 where he was employed in the services of Eberhard III, Duke of Württemberg. From 1677 he lived and worked in Augsburg, where he later died.


While we're at it, here are some more paintings that are based on this rather raunchy, rather peculiar tale, the fine art equivalent of televised entertainment in the style of Jerry Springer/Maury Povich/et al. Beginning with the Renaissance, and over the course of several centuries, there were many artists who chose to illustrate either the story of the initial discovery of Venus' transgression or Vulcan's dramatic "reveal" to their Olympian relatives. The paintings usually portrayed some degree of coitus interruptus; back in the day all you needed to do was to apply a glossy mythological varnish to your work and you could get away with pretty much anything.

Alexandre Charles Guillemot, 1827.
François Boucher, 1754.
Hendrik de Clerck, circa 1615.
Il Padovanino, circa 1631.
Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée, 1768.

Doing image research for this post, I came across several paintings on the same subject by a certain Joachim Wtewael (1566-1638) - never heard of him - a  Dutch Mannerist painter. His versions of the story are pretty intense - and he holds very little back.

Circa 1606-1610.


  1. those are some pretty manly looking ladies I must say...

    1. Yesh, hermaphrodism rules the day and also yesterday, as well!

  2. The Boucher is one of my favorites! It hangs in the Wallace Collection in London.

    The Lagrenee is surprisingly decorous, but the earlier Baroque paintings are more earthy as befits the subject matter.