Consequences of War

Consequences of War
Artist Peter Paul Rubens
Year 1638–39
Medium Oil on canvas
Location Palazzo Pitti, Florence
Dimensions 81 in × 136 in
206 cm × 345 cm
Famous Paintings by Peter P. Rubens
Samson and Delilah
The Descent from the Cross
Prometheus Bound
The Raising of the Cross
Adoration of the Magi
Consequences of War
Complete Works

Consequences of War is a magnificent oil on canvas which is a mesmerizing feast for the eyes, yet invokes a powerful sense of pain, violence, loss and tragedy. Rendered by the great Belgian-German painter Peter Paul Rubens between 1638 and 1639 in a style that art historians call “Flemish Borque.”

About War

The painting is a commentary on the one of the most wretched periods of European history, the 30 Years War, which was waged from 1618 through 1648. It resulted in widespread destruction across just about every major European nation. It was a time of death, starvation, sorrow, fright and agony for millions of people.

Mars and Venus

The Roman god of war, Mars, takes center stage in the Consequences of War. He stands astride with sword in hand, held low, but which is pointing toward a chaotic scene of battle. His head is turned sharply backward as he gazes upon a gorgeous nude depiction of Venus, the goddess of love. Her head is resting on the back shoulder of Mars. Her face seems to plead with him to end the madness he has brought among mankind.

Behind and above Venus are cherubic children. The soft white flesh of Venus and her cherubic attendants stands in stark contrast to the dark, gritty appearance of the brutally masculine Mars. Though Mars has an adoring look for his fellow deity, his body language suggests he still relishes a plunge into the roiling violence on the right side of the painting.

Color Scheme

The color scheme is dominated by muted grays, browns and dirty greens, but is contrasted by the flesh-white bodies of Venus and the children. The blood-red robe of Mars also provides vivid relief in the center of the work.


It’s to find within Consequences of War any kind of neutrality, or the mere feeling one is looking at just a marvelous achievement of art. It projects the violence and pain of the times.

This piece was commissioned by Ferdinando II de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

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