La fucina di Vulcano (c.1660)

Giordano, Luca (1634-1705)

La fucina di Vulcano (Vulcan’s Forge)
Oil on canvas, 192.5 x 151.5 cm
Hermitage MuseumSaint Petersburg

This early work by Luca Giordano manages to combine a mythological theme with a treatment worthy of a genre painting. In showing the forge of the god of fire, Vulcan (Greek Hephaestus), in which his assistants the Cyclopes are hammering out lightning for the thunderer god, Jupiter (Virgil, The Aeneid, VIII, 424-453), the artist simply used the subject as a pretext for the depiction of unusual lighting effects and muscle-bound bodies in complex poses. Barely showing the faces of the Cyclopes, he concentrates his attention on the strong torsoes and tensed muscles, an excellent knowledge of anatomy allowing him to cope with the difficult foreshortening. The contrast between the reddish light and the dark shadows, and the broad generalised painting manner are used to good effect to create a sense of volume. At the same time, Giordano manages to create a marvellous feeling for the texture of objects, above all the iron and tools. (SHM)