Label Text: Venus dips arrows into a bowl of love potion under the suspicious gaze of her husband, Vulcan. Mars, clutching one of the arrows over his chest, approaches. Winged putti assist in their forbidden affair. One helps Venus throw her arrows while another sneaks around to take a spear from the hands of the love-stuck Mars. A third putto floats overhead, giggling and gesturing secrecy to the viewer. This story of love and betrayal provided many artists with an opportunity to create a scene of passion or of moral reprimand. However, Copley presents a light and humorous tone with bright colors and mischievous putti.
When he painted this, Copley was only fifteen or sixteen years old. He lived in the colonies and taught himself how to paint without access to European artworks or artists to teach him. His only reference for practice painting came from the reproductions he could find in a print shop. This, the artist’s first attempt at history painting, was copied from Nicholas Tardieu’s mezzotint of a painting by Antoine Coypel. Copley may have chosen this print over others because of its classical theme and the variety of textures and materials present for him to practice.