Artist: The school of Jan Brueghel the younger (1601-1678), Flemish.
Year: Late 17th Century.
Medium: Oil on Wood.
Size: Height - 32", Width - 39"
1993.03.03 EL On loan from the Noel family
Venus at the Forge
To understand the work of Jan Brueghel the Younger one must first look to Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625). The artwork of Jan Brueghel the Elder, also known as “Velvet” Brueghel, became highly valued by royalty throughout Europe due to his refined and delicate techniques. [Wheelock, Flemish Paintings of the Seventeenth Century, p 14] Brueghel the Younger, his parents only son, studied under his father and eventually ran a large workshop creating paintings in his father’s style. This image of Venus visiting Vulcan’s forge was one such image that Brueghel the Younger recreated from his father’s original. The process of reproducing multiple images after an original was not uncommon; seventeenth century workshops produced multiples of many “besting selling” originals for eager buyers. During the middle of the nineteenth century, there was a renewed interest among American art collectors for the seventeenth century Flemish and Dutch paintings. Those who went on a grand tour, like Adelicia Acklen, would sometimes be able to acquire these paintings to add to their collection.
The painting depicts a derelict castle as the backdrop for Vulcan’s forge. In the distance an erupting volcano symbolizes the smelting of iron. All the elements connected with the craft of metalworking are visible in the scene; a smelting furnace and casting hearth sit in the corner and to the right are trip hammers and water wheels. Handheld tools, such as tongs, pincers, hammers, and hand vise, litter the area occupied by Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metalwork. He sits at his anvil just left of center with Venus and Cupid standing behind him. This painting serves as a record of the sixteenth century methods used by craftsmen, besides showing the forms of various tools it serves as a representation of most operations performed in the blacksmith’s forge. [Ffoulkens, A Craft-Picture by Jan Brueghel, p 42]