Mars appears to Rhea Silvia
Rubens succeeded in capturing both Mars’ lust and Rhea Silvia’s inability to resist, spreading the sensual scene over an open space complete with monumental columns. The characters are accompanied by two Cupid-figures. Neither Rhea Silvia’s bedroom nor the altar dedicated to Minerva, which both appeared in Rubens’ cartoons, appear in the tapestry. The border is the same as in the other tapestries and the lower part of the monogram of Jan Raes II, the tapestry-maker, is weaved into the right-hand selvage.
The collection in the Liechtenstein Museum contains a painting of this episode alongside the rest of the cartoons in the History of the consul Decius Mus series. However, despite being certain of its authorship and that it is a design for a tapestry, we cannot be certain of its relationship with the rest of the series. It has been posited that the painting was the first cartoon of a cycle on the History of Rome. Others have seen different stories in the scene: “Ajax and Cassandra”, for example, or “Allegory of Decius’ love for his country”, as it was named in the catalogue of the National Heritage collections. Even if we cannot be certain of what it represents, we can be certain that it was soon incorporated into the Decius Mus series.
Series History of the consul Decius Mus
Eighth tapestry in the series
Model P. P. Rubens
Manufacture Jan Raes II, Brussels, c. 1620-1629
Fabric Gold, silver, silk and wool
Size 405 x 335 cm
Location Royal Palace of Madrid
Origin Collection of Philip IV
On display Royal Armoury
National Heritage Inv. 10013129