This is a studio version of the composition by Jan Brueghel I and Hendrik van Balen, sold in these Rooms, 10 July 1998, lot 8 (150,000).
In the present lot, as in the prototype above, Vulcan is about to hand a shield to Venus, but first indicates to her the coat-of-arms, that of the Kings of France, at its centre. The meaning of this remains obscure. The shield is a parade piece and differs from the elements of armour on the ground beside Vulcan, which are also decorated with fleurs-de-lys and are from the same garniture. An entry in Jan Brueghel II's daybook for 1626 (see Ertz, op. cit., p. 380) records him as having collaborated with Hendrick van Balen in the execution of a Forge of Vulcan, in which Venus points to the arms of the Duke of Savoy. Evidently this lost painting was in the same vein as the present lot, with the arms of the Duke of Savoy replacing those of the House of Bourbon. The daybook entry does not specify that the painting was a special commission. In the left-hand corner are elements of tournament armour of the late fifteenth century, then in the Imperial Armoury in Brussels, parts of which still exist.