Vulcan's Forge

Another of Velázquez’s masterpieces is once again one of the mythological fables of which Philip IV was so fond, and which the artist brought down to a human level, as was his custom with this subject matter. The figure on the left is the god Apollo, a handsome young man with a laurel wreath and a bright halo around his head. Apollo was the god of the Sun, beauty and the arts, and nothing could be hidden from him. Apollo has entered Vulcan’s forge, where the god of the centre of the earth and, hence, of fire and volcanoes, forges weapons for Gods and heroes. Vulcan is lame, because he was thrown down from Olympus, and his handicap can be seen from his twisted torso. The other workers in the forge are shown in various positions, giving the artist the chance to display his skill at drawing the human anatomy. The expression on their faces is one of utter surprise, because Apollo is telling Vulcan that his wife, Venus, is being unfaithful to him with Mars, the handsome god of War. The figure in the background is blurred, like a foretaste of Impressionism.

Notice how realistic certain objects are, such as the armour that the eldest blacksmith is working on. Its sheen is beautifully painted. The anvil with the red-hot metal seems almost about to burn us. Light enters the scene with Apollo, who floods the place with his shining brightness. Although Velazquez’s typical ochre tones are predominant, the colour of Apollo’s mantle stands out. He wears sandals on his feet that are the same colour as his laurel wreath.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Catalina Serrano Romero
English translation (a) Thisbe Burns