Mars and Venus Embracing as Vulcan works at his Forge

Sam Warnke

Operations Associate

Enea Vico (after Parmigianino), Mars and Venus Embracing as Vulcan works at his Forge, Engraving, 1543.


Vulcan (aka Hephaestus, God of Fire and Forging) bangs away in his forge while Mars and the unfaithful Venus are also…banging away.

Italian engraver Enea Vico (1523-1567) made this print after a design by famed Italian Renaissance painter Parmigianino (1503-1540), or “Little one from Parma”. The scene is taken from Homer’s Odyssey and shows the handsome & virile Mars (aka Ares), the God of War, seducing the beautiful Venus (aka Aphrodite), the Goddess of Love, in the marriage bed of Vulcan and Venus. Vulcan (who is a hideously cripple but extremely clever) is enraged by Venus’s infidelity (duh) and in his forge he builds a trap of strong chain nets to capture the two immoral immortals red handed (cue Shaggy “It Wasn’t Me” circa 2000). Hopefully Vulcan was banging his anvil in rhythm to his naughty neighbors or surely they would hear him…. 

What does he do to them once he captures them? He calls all the gods from heavenly Olympus, including Venus’s daddy, Jupiter (aka Zeus), to come and behold the shameful Venus and Mars and demands that Jupiter pay him for her dirty deeds. The gods actually make fun of the situation and all agree that it would totally be worth being trapped under in 3 times as many chains if that meant they could get down with Venus. In the end Mercury (aka Hermes), like a true brothah, vouches for Mars and agrees to pay his damages. (Read the whole story HERE)

This particular print actually represents a famous act of 16th century Reformation censorship – in the latter 1500s (within 60 years of the creation of the original print) the original plate was altered to remove the salacious scene and replaced the disloyal lovers with a peacefully (but still sexy) sleeping Venus.


Illustration taken from The Invention of the Italian Renaissance Printmaker, Evelyn Lincoln, 2000,

This NSFW, uncensored original version of Enea Vico’s print has very recently been removed from the galleries… CURSES!!!

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