Venus and Mars
Mars, God of War, was one of the lovers of Venus, Goddess of Love. Here Mars is asleep and unarmed, while Venus is awake and alert. The meaning of the picture is that love conquers war, or love conquers all.

This work was probably a piece of bedroom furniture, perhaps a bedhead or piece of wainscoting, most probably the 'spalliera' or backboard from a chest or day bed. The wasps ('vespe' in Italian) at the top right suggest a link with the Vespucci family, though they may be no more than a symbol of the stings of love.

A lost Classical painting of the marriage of Alexander and Roxana was described by the 2nd-century Greek writer, Lucian. It showed cupids playing with Alexander's spear and armour. Botticelli's satyrs may refer to this. Mars is sleeping the 'little death' which comes after making love, and not even a trumpet in his ear will wake him. The little satyrs have stolen his lance - a joke to show that he is now disarmed.

Key facts

Artist
Artist dates
about 1445 - 1510
Full title
Venus and Mars
Date made
about 1485
Medium and support
Tempera and oil on poplar
Dimensions
69.2 x 173.4 cm
Acquisition credit
Bought, 1874
Inventory number
NG915
Location in Gallery

Further information

In depth