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“Venus and Mars” by Sandro Botticelli

Venus and Mars National Gallery

“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 and 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 many debated elements of this composition such as a swarm of wasps that hover around Mars’ head, add to the mystery and allure of this painting.

Botticelli-Venus and Mars (cropped)

Botticelli 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. He lived all his life in the same neighbourhood 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.

Exploring Botticelli

Reflections

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

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

  • Name:                     Sandro Botticelli
  • Birth Name:          Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi
  • Born:                      c. 1445 – Florence, Republic of Florence, (now Italy)
  • Died:                       May 17, 1510 (aged c. 64) – Florence, Republic of Florence
  • Nationality:           Italian
  • Movement:            Italian Renaissance
  • Notable works:

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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