TEMPEL, Abraham van den
(b. 1622, Leeuwarden, d. 1672, Amsterdam)

Mars Banishes 'Nering'

Oil on canvas, 207 x 266 cm
Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden

Abraham van den Tempel painted a series of three allegorical history pieces for the governors of the Lakenhal, or Clothmakers' Hall in Leiden between 1648 and 1651. The commission was a prestigious one, not only because of the size of the pictures, but also because they were history pieces to be displayed in a high ranking public building. The governors who commissioned the work were men of considerable stature, too. They were entrusted by the city fathers with the day-to-day management of one of Leiden's nine textile sectors, known in Dutch as 'neringen'. In this capacity they were responsible for the manufacture of and trade in worsted, a sector that was booming at the time. Their seat of office was the brand-new building which has been known to this day as the Lakenhal. They wanted classicist decorations worthy of their modern building.

Regarding the series, Minerva Crowns the Maid of Leiden originally served as the overmantel, while the other two, Mars Banishes 'Nering' and The Maid of Leiden Welcomes 'Nering' hung on the long wall beside one another. The latter two paintings form pendants, being the same size and related in subject-matter. The theme that connects them is 'nering', the term formerly used in Leiden for the production of and trade in textile.

In Mars Banishes 'Nering', Minerva and Mercury escort the personification of nering, who looks back in disgust, from Mars in his suite of armor. The war god in his bellicose guise is attended by his henchmen Deimos and Phobos, the sowers of fear and dread. The woman he tramples underfoot, whose hat identifies her as Liberty, shows how Mars puts an end to freedom. A second prostate figure, recognisable by her scales and sword as Justice, is another of his victims. The buildings ablaze in the background warn of the adversity that comes in his wake.