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“Venus and Mars” by Sandro Botticelli

"Venus and Mars" by Sandro Botticelli

“Venus and Mars” by Sandro Botticelli

“Venus and Mars” by Sandro Botticelli portray Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and Mars, the god of war, as a coupled reclining in a forest setting, surrounded by playful baby satyrs. It is an allegory of beauty and bravery, representing an ideal view of sensuous marriage and love. Based on the subject of the composition and the unusual wide format of this masterpiece, the painting was probably intended to commemorate a wedding. It was created to be set into a piece of furniture to adorn the bedroom of the bride and groom.

Venus watches Mars sleep while two infant satyrs play with Mars’ weapons of war. One of the satyrs blows a small conch shell in Mars’ ear to wake him. The implication is that the couple has made love, and the male has fallen asleep. In this context, the lance and conch can also be read as sexual symbols.

Botticelli painted this masterpiece a few years after the “Primavera” around the time of “The Birth of Venus.” Similar to those mythological paintings, this picture’s appeal is its visual beauty. The are many debated elements of this composition. The symbolism of the swarm of wasps that hover around Mars’ head is not certain, but they add to the mystery and allure of this painting.

Venus

Venus was a Roman goddess, whose functions encompassed love, beauty, desire, and victory. Venus was central to many religious festivals and was revered in Roman religion under numerous cult titles.

The Romans adapted the myths and iconography of her Greek counterpart Aphrodite for Roman art and Latin literature. In the later classical tradition of the West, Venus became one of the most widely referenced deities of Greco-Roman mythology as the embodiment of love and sexuality.

  • Mythical:               Venus
  • Domain:                Love, beauty, desire, fertility, and prosperity
  • Consorts:               Mars and Vulcan
  • Children:               Cupid, Aeneas
  • Parents:                 Born of sea foam
  • Greek:                    Aphrodite

Mars

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Mars was the god of war and also an agricultural guardian. He was second in importance only to Jupiter, and he was the most prominent of the military gods in the religion of the Roman army.

Under the influence of Greek culture, Mars was identified with the Greek god Ares, whose myths were reinterpreted in Roman literature and art under the name of Mars. But the character and dignity of Mars differed in fundamental ways from that of his Greek counterpart, who is often treated with contempt and disgust in Greek literature.

Although Ares was viewed as a destructive and destabilizing force, Mars represented military power as a way to secure peace and was a father of the Roman people. In the founding myths of Rome, Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus.

His love affair with Venus symbolically reconciled the two different traditions of Rome’s founding. Venus was the divine mother of the hero Aeneas, celebrated as the Trojan refugee who “founded” Rome several generations before Romulus laid out the city walls.

  • Mythical:                Mars
  • Domain:                 Guardian of soldiers and farmers, God of War,
  • Consorts:                Nerio, Rhea Silvia, Venus, Bellona
  • Children:                Romulus and Remus
  • Parents:                  Jupiter and Juno
  • Greek:                    Ares

Sandro Botticelli

Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510) was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance who belonged to the Florentine School under the patronage of Lorenzo de’ Medici. His mythological masterpieces are his best-known works today. However, he painted a range of religious subjects and portraits. He and his workshop were primarily known for their many beautiful Madonna and Child paintings.

Botticelli lived all his life in the same neighborhood of Florence, and his only significant time elsewhere was the few months he spent painting in Pisa in 1474 and his work at the Sistine Chapel in Rome in 1481–82.

Venus and Mars

  • Title:                 Venus and Mars
  • Deutsch:          Allegorie der Venus-Humanitas
  • Artist:              Sandro Botticelli
  • Year:                1483
  • Medium:         Tempera on panel
  • Dimensions:    69 × 173.5 cm (27.2 × 68.3 in)
  • Museum:         The National Gallery, London

Sandro Botticelli

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Reflections

  • Does this painting depict Venus mastering Mars, meaning love conquers war?
  • What does her face and attitude to her snoring lover, symbolize?

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“There are three classes of people:
Those who see.
Those who see when they are shown.
Those who do not see.”
 

– Leonardo da Vinci

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Photo Credit: Sandro Botticelli [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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