Venus and Mars by Sandro Botticelli
|Courtesy of www.renaissanceart.org|
Most scholars believe that Boticelli's painting represents an idyllic love, but there are many other allegories at work in the piece. Venus is the Goddess of love while Mars is the God of war. He appears to be pleasantly sleeping while Venus could not be more alert. Boticelli implies that love can conquer all in this portrayal.
The figures surrounding Venus and Mars are satyrs. The satyrs were legendary creatures that also originated in Greek mythology. They are associated with fertility and music. The satyrs pictured in Venus and Mars are juveniles who are up to mischief. Two satyrs play around the sleeping Mars and carry his lance and helmet while another blows a conch shell hoping to wake him. A fourth rests under his slack arm while Venus looks on.
The painting represents many ideals of the early Renaissance. The figures exude tremendous physical beauty and a great deal of importance is placed in symbolism from ancient and mythological texts. The subject matter is lighthearted, but the scene is set in what appears to be a haunted forest. In the upper foreground wasps hover near Mars. These are either a symbol that denotes the work belonged to the Vespucci family, or a comment on the pain of love.
Venus and Mars is housed at the National Gallery in London.