A perennially favourite image, 'Venus at the forge of Vulcan' more usually plays on the more overtly erotic theme of illicit love, showing Venus's lover, Mars, jealously watching the couple from the sidelines. However, in the present version, that theme is overlooked in preference to one of a mother's devotion to her son. Venus is asking Vulcan to make armour for her son, Aeneas: 'Signalling to her husband (I come to you) '.. as a suppliant, and as a mother I ask you to make arms for my son'.. who she '..loves above all other starry fires.' Upon receiving these gifts Aeneas ..admired the terrible, crested, fire-spurting helmet... death-dealing sword, the huge, unyielding breastplate, the spear and the shield' (Virgil, The Aeneid, A New Prose Translation, London, 1991, Chapter VIII, pp. 201-209).
There is little evidence of other similar Italian gilt-decorated glass dishes and without a concrete precedent, it cannot be said with any certainty where the current lot was made. The form and construction of the dish is certainly Italian. The decoration, which combines a classical subject in the centre with exuberant baroque border decoration, strongly evokes the maiolica of Pavia of the late 17th and early 18th century; see Elena Pelizzoni et. al., La Maiolica di Pavia tra Seicento e Settecento, particularly p. 7, no. 1, p. 57, no. 29, and many other examples. The technique of 'verre églomisé' is traditionally associated with more northern European centres of production; however, the upheaval of The Thirty Years War found many artists from these centres moving southwards to Italy to find work, penetrating as far south as Naples, which became a major production centre. It should be noted that there was a fertile exchange of ideas between Naples and the Netherlands and that the Netherlands style of 'verre églomisé' favoured monochromatic and gilt decoration; see Reverse Paintings on Glass, The Ryser Collection, translated by Rudy Eswarin from the German Verzauberte Bilder by Frieder Ryser, Corning, 1992, pp. 26 and 27.