Venus giving Arms to Aeneas
This painting was the initial idea for a picture now in the Museum Mayer van den Bergh (Antwerp), dated 1668. The iconography is faithful to Book Vlll of Virgil’s Aeneid. Venus, the mother of Aeneas, is asking her husband, Vulcan, to forge arms of the highest quality for her son who is preparing to go and found Rome. Among these is the famous shield made by the Cyclops. Lairesse chooses the moment when Venus presents her son with the golden arms that will make him invincible. In the lower left corner, a river god symbolises the Tiber who, a little earlier, had warmly welcomed the hero, exhorting him to have courage, and showing him the future site of Rome.
The focus on gesture and the sculptural quality of the forms, as well as the use of metallic blue for the drapery above Venus, contrast with the bright red of Aeneas’ cloak, recalling all that Lairesse had retained from his training in Liège. An increased boldness in the Realist treatment of the nude and in his colours suggests that the painter was adapting his work to the taste of his Dutch clients.