Skip to main content

Venus Presenting Arms to Aeneas

Nicolas Poussin

(1594 - 1665) | 866.1

Date : 1639

In 1639, Poussin, who had been living in Rome for five years, painted this picture for his friend Jacques Stella. The work makes meticulous reference to sources from classical antiquity, and is inspired by Virgil's Aeneid.

Poussin offers a very precise interpretation of the passage where Venus presents Aeneas (the son she had with Anchises) with the arms that she had requested for him from the god Vulcan. The hero steps forward with dignity and a gesture of noble astonishment; in the air the goddess dominates the scene, protective and imperious, preceded by cupids and followed by a swan. Finally, hanging from the branches of an oak, we see the arms destined for Aeneas. He will need them on the eve of this day when he is to meet Turnus in the battle that will lead to his installation in Latium and the founding of Rome.

The ternary rhythm of these three figures is mirrored by the three trees that punctuate the composition and by the three river deities with their three urns. We notice the perfectly linked sequence of gestures on the part of the goddess and the hero. Facing them, the cluster of gleaming, resounding arms call Aeneas to meet his destiny. The painting is one of the most perfect examples of Poussin’s 'painted poetry', in which the captured moment seems to contain the whole ensuing story.