Venus Bringing Arms to Aeneas

Johann Zoffany, 1733 - 1810

Venus Bringing Arms to Aeneas

Johann Zoffany 1733 - 1810


Zoffany, who was born Johannes Josephus Zauffaly, was a German painter mainly active in England. In this scene taken from Virgil's Aeneid (VIII, 608 ff.), Venus is shown bringing arms forged by Vulcan to her son, Aeneas, to help him in his war against the Latins. The goddess has arrived in a chariot pulled by doves, accompanied by putti who present her gift to Aeneas. This early easel painting was made before Zoffany's arrival in England. It is not known whether he ever produced a finished composition based on this sketch, or for whom it was painted, but it was possibly related to a large commission from Johann Philipp, Graf von Walderdorff, Elector of Trier, to paint a series of frescoes and paintings for his new palaces at Trier and Koblenz. The perspective indicates that it was intended for a ceiling. Zoffany trained first with Martin Speer (c.1702-65) and Francesco Solimena (1657-1747), before going to Rome in 1750, where he studied under the portraitist Agostino Masucci and made the acquaintance of Anton Raphael Mengs. This oil sketch shows his interest in serious mythological subject matter, tempered by a delicate, bright colour scheme and decorative touches.

Display Label

Venus Bringing Arms to Aeneas 1759 Johann Zoffany 1733 - 1810 Oil on canvas This may be a study for a decorative ceiling in Italy. It shows Venus offering her son, Aeneas, arms, forged by Vulcan, the god of fire, to help Aeneas in his battle against the Greeks in the Trojan war. The subject was especially popular with Italian artists. By the mid 1700s, history and figure painting had become less heroic than in the previous century, reflecting the popularity of the softer Rococo style. It is seen here in the feminine colours, plump cherubs and Venus’s pretty doves flying above her. After living in Rome, the German artist Zoffany moved to England where he became the leading painter of group portraits of people engaged in social activity. Purchased 1966.4

Object Name

Venus Bringing Arms to Aeneas

Creators Name

Johann Zoffany

Date Created



unframed: 27.6cm x 37.8cm
framed: 38cm x 49.6cm

accession number


Place of creation





oil paint

On Display

[BG] Manchester Art Gallery - Balcony Gallery
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