The painting was probably executed in England in 1629-30, illustrating Rubens' hopes for the peace he was trying to negotiate between England and Spain in his role as envoy to Philip IV of Spain. Rubens presented the finished work to Charles I of England as a gift.

The central figure represents Pax (Peace) in the person of Ceres, goddess of the earth, sharing her bounty with the group of figures in the foreground. The children have been identified as portraits of the children of Rubens' host, Sir Balthasar Gerbier, a painter-diplomat in the service of Charles I.

To the right of Pax is Minerva, goddess of wisdom. She drives away Mars, the god of war, and Alecto, the fury of war. A winged cupid and the goddess of marriage, Hymen, lead the children (the fruit of marriage) to a cornucopia, or horn of plenty. The satyr and leopard are part of the entourage of Bacchus, another fertility god, and leopards also draw Bacchus's chariot. Two nymphs or maenads approach from the left, one brings riches, the other dances to a tambourine. A putto holds an olive wreath, symbol of peace, and the caduceus of Mercury, messenger of the gods.

Product Code NG46
artist Peter Paul Rubens
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Minerva protects Pax from Mars ('Peace and War') Print

Peter Paul Rubens

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