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." (Cole, xx) the purpose of the work during the renaissance was mostly likely for a prominent individual's bedroom furniture or a piece of wainscoting.
Some art connoisseurs have considered that the detailed wasps at upper right may have been a link to the popular Vespucci family of Florence and other connoisseurs have decided that the wasps are nothing more than a symbolism for Venus and 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 armor. 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." (Venus and Mars)
VI. VISUAL ANALYSIS:
Botticelli's work is bright and cheerful as the satyrs play fully toy with Mar's tools of war. Venus is lounging with her long beautiful hair hanging carelessly over a white heavenly dress trimmed with gold. An obviously exhausted Mars is cloaked in only a loin cloth and his fast asleep.
The details of his body show strength and stature and his long curly hair his thick and full. The four satyrs in the work have playful looks as three steal or play with the heavy spear and one sneaks under Mars to take his sword. The fourth satyr's head is completely engulfed under Mar's heavy steel and gold helmet.
The scene looks as though there are four playful children being mischievous as a daunting mother of friend looks on during the hiatus of the man of the house. The lighting is bright and the color is very detailed. For example, Venus's white and gold gown is accentuated by a bright plush reddish pillow. The skin of all has adopted the Florentine complexion of northern Italia.
When comparing the two works with each other, one first notes the difference in the use of color. "The Story of Nastagio degli Onesti (third episode)" is a much darker work and seems much more serious because of the darker colors. Historians have tied this third work to its two predecessors and each of the three represents a tale of a young woman's murder. "The Story of Nastagio degli Onesti (third episode)" depicts a picnic full of phantom like people. Like its previous two episodes, we witness a ghostly woman's atrocious murder. The act of the murder is in plain sight of the panic-stricken picnickers. The act is a series of thrusts and blows by the woman's ghostly lover's sword.
Where "Venus and Mars" are jovial and playful through light color and facial expression, "The Story of Nastagio degli Onesti (third episode)" is serious and sad as color, light and the shocked expressions of the onlooker's show that this is no laughing matter. These two works were done approximately two years apart and reflect two different sides of Sandro Botticelli. "The Story of Nastagio degli Onesti (third episode)" was done in 1983 and reflects a very serious demeanor. A few years later the, the happy side of Botticelli seems to have been released in "Venus and Mars." Unfortunately for all, the religious factions of the late 1490's seem to have returned the artist into the dark and serious side of his consciousness.
This report was a summary and comparison of two works from one of my favorite Italian Renaissance artists. The works were taken from the 1987 Harper & Row book called "Italian Art, 1250-1550: The Relation of Renaissance Art to Life and Society" by Bruce Cole. The two works compared were "Venus and Mars" and "The Story of Nastagio degli Onesti (third episode)" each by Sandro Botticelli.
Botticelli, Sandro. Ed. Emil Kren and Daniel Marx. Web Gallery of Art. Retrieved on 13 Nov. 2004, from http://gallery.euroweb.hu/bio/b/botticel/biograph.html.
Cole, Bruce. Italian Art, 1250-1550: The Relation of Renaissance Art to Life and Society. New York: Harper & Row, 1987.
Venus and Mars. The National Gallery. Retrieved on 13 Nov. 2004, from http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/cgi-bin/WebObjects.dll/CollectionPublisher.woa/wa/work?workNumber=NG915.