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Diego Velasquez, Mars, 1640

Velasquez's Mars is satire, pure and simple. The powerful god of war isn't slaying foes in battle, or standing with arms akimbo with the wind blowing through his magnificence mustache - he's tired, melancholy  and maybe a little defeated.

So why surround the god of war with such pastel colors? The baby pinks and blues clash with the hard metal of his shield and helmet -- but they certainly add to the ridiculousness. A working theory concerning poor Mars' melancholia is his unrequited love for Venus, who's married to Vulcan. Velasquez painted another work titled Vulcan's Forge where Apollo informs Vulcan of Mars' infatuation with his wife -- while Vulcan works on armor for Mars. Maybe this painting is the follow-up to that meeting. A lover's quarrel or a confrontation could put anyone in a foul mood.

Velasquez strips Mars of his power and strength and makes him look absolutely ridiculous. Is this an allegory about the trappings of love? Or perhaps a comment on the more sensitive soldiers of the Spanish army. It's up to you to decide.

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