Mars Chastising Cupid by Bartolomeo Manfredi, Circa 1605-1610


Cupid Chastised or Chastising Cupid by Bartolomeo Manfredi, Circa 1605/10. Manfredi was a well known Caravaggisti (a follower of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio) – one can see that with the stunning Carravaggio and dramatic use of chiaroscuro lighting.  Also, don’t miss the unmistakeable tones of baroque. A favourite.

The painting was earlier believed to be by an unknown Nordic follower of Caravaggio, and was only attributed to Manfredi as recently as 1972.

I’ve read different interpretations of this painting. Cupid, the son of Mars (god of war) and Venus (goddess of love) being punished for having an incestuous relationship with his mother. The other being Venus (married to Vulcan, the god of fire) has an affair with Mars, who then chastises Venus’s son Cupid for creating the attraction with his arrows. I might be biased, but the most interesting is the interpretation of Manfredi’s painting to portray a scene of homo-erotic sadomasochism. Manfredi, (considered to be a gay man) is believed to have depicted Cupid receiving gratification from Mars’ strikes. If you look closely at the painting, you will notice Cupid does not resist the strikes (limp wrist, unclenched hand, relaxed feet), his young titillating body (the centre of attention and light detail) seems arched in pleasure rather than twisted in pain, and his facial expression portrays ecstasy instead of anguish. Venus, with her bared breast, is considered to be a ploy or a distraction to this interpretation.


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