Van Hemessen was one of the foremost painters in Antwerp during the second quarter of the 16th Century. He was apprenticed to Hendrik van Cleve in 1519-20, but his mature style owes more to the work of Jan Gossaert, whose monumental figures and pronounced chiarscuro suited van Hemmessen's own penchant for subjects incorporating dramatic gestures and heroic themes. His other main influence came from Italy, where he probably travelled in the 1520s (evidenced by surviving copies after del Sarto and others). Indeed Vasari mentions him as among the leading Flemish artists who spent time in Italy.
By 1524 van Hemessen was listed as a Master of the Guild of St. Luke in Antwerp, and he established a workshop in the city that flourished for over thirty years. His borrowings from Italian art were wide-ranging and the present allegory is a good example of his eclectic style. A naked woman reclines on a bed, richly draped with textiles and surmounted by a cameo depicting Venus disarming Mars. She holds a lute, which rests on a table with other musical instruments and scores, while a dog sits below. The embroidered tablecloth and elaborately carved furniture complete the ornate interior. This interest in ornamental elaboration is frequently seen in van Hemessen's work, and also corresponds to contemporary developments in sculpture and the decorative arts popularised by Flemish printmakers such as Cornelis Floris (1514-75) and Cornelis Bos (c. 1506-56).
The exaggerated foreshortening of the right arm of the main figure bears comparison with other works by the artist, notably to the figure of Jacob in Jacob Giving his Blessing (Munich, Alte Pinakothek).