Venus, the planet of love and art, harmony and sweetness, spends a long time in Aries, a sign that represents some quite contrary energies, in 2017. So we have an opportunity to look and think about how Venus behaves here. I’ve been looking at the charts of artists, fashion designers and film makers with Venus in Aries and seeing if this shows in their work.
Francisco de Goya, the Spanish painter, whose life spanned the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, got into a spot of bother in 1808, even though he was a successful court painter. It was this picture of a woman lying naked on a couch that did it. He was hauled in by the Inquisition and only got off the hook when it was pointed out that a lot of earlier artists had done nudes and this was really a sort of homage to their work.
Of course, the painting is shocking — but today we can only see that when we start to compare it to previous nudes — and later ones. Look at the model’s gaze. She looks directly out of the canvas at you. This bold look is unprecedented. Nudes look down, look up, look sideways — anywhere but at the viewer. This boldness takes courage. This is Venus in Aries. It’s not until Edouard Manet’s Olympia, painted more than half a century later, that we see another naked woman staring out of the frame like this.
What’s more, this woman has pubic hair — a detail missing from other nudes.
In Goya’s powerfully dynamic natal chart, the tight stellium of Sun, Mercury, Venus is in conversation with Saturn in Libra. Indeed, like the painter and the Maja, they gaze boldly at each other from the sign of the individual to the sign of relationships.
But there’s another way that Venus in Aries, the sign of battle, works too. Few artists have depicted the pity and terror of war with such hair-raising, visceral horror as Francisco de Goya. During his lifetime, Spain was invaded and brutally occupied by Napoleon and his army.
Look at the gaze again in this painting, El Tres Mayo. Here is an opposition between the Spanish partisan and his French executioners, Venus-Sun-Mercury in Aries against Saturn in Libra. The bright white-shirted individual standing up to an army, cruel as slate.
This painting is often cited as the first modern work of art. There was nothing before like it in composition or subject matter. Aries, is, of course a pioneer; the first at something.
Goya’s dark side had already begun to emerge in the 1890s with a set of etchings, Los Caprichos, which depicted the follies and iniquities of contemporary society. You can see from his chart that his Venus-Sun in Aries connects tightly with Uranus in Aquarius, which suggests he would have been interested and engaged in society, and the human project.
Goya’s last big project was the Black Paintings. These nightmarish visions were painted on the plaster walls of his house — after the war, in exile from court, cut off by hearing loss. The conjunction of Moon and Neptune in Cancer would have given him a huge visual imagination. But how fascinating — how very Cancerian — to have literally painted these dreams on the walls of his home! So entering his house, you entered his subconscious.
But back to Venus (art) in Aries. Goya never stopped being angry (Aries) about the state of the world, it seems. And with that super-charged chart, he never stopped working either.