VELÁZQUEZ, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y
(b. 1599, Sevilla, d. 1660, Madrid)

The Forge of Vulcan

Oil on canvas, 223 x 290 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

The pictures Velázquez produced in Italy include the large Forge of Vulcan. The god of fire and his assistants are working a red-hot piece of metal in the forge, which is grey with dust, and another journeyman is making a suit of knightly armour, its materiality depicted with a masterly touch, when Apollo the god of light makes his entrance, rather like the youthful hero in a provincial farce - yet radiant as his appearance may be, he brings Vulcan unwelcome news: at this very moment, as we know from mythology, Vulcan's wife Venus is keeping an amorous tryst with Mars, the god of war.

The half-naked figures, shown in richly graduated flesh tints and not, as in the Bacchus, pressed close together in a dense group, are depicted in postures noticeably influenced by sixteenth-century Italian masters. Although large areas in earthy colours are still reminiscent of Caravaggio, the greater vigour of the brushwork and the red of Apollo's robe, which is suffused with light, suggest those models now admired by Velázquez: Tintoretto, the Venetian master of colour, and in particular Titian.

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