Venus and Mars, Sandro Botticelli
Link is to a high resolution downloadble file on Wikipedia, the original is in the National Gallery, London, which has a zoomable version of the image.
Two of Botticelli’s paintings, La Primavera and The Birth of Venus, are among the most iconic and recognized in the history of art. Other works of his are less well known — and undeservedly so — in particular, Venus and Mars.
The painting is reasonably large at roughly 27 x 68 inches (69 x 174 cm), but not as monumental as the previously mentioned works. It is, nonetheless, striking and beautiful, panted in a combination of egg tempera and oil.
It’s generally assumed Venus and Mars was commissioned to mark the occasion of a wedding, though no specific event or couple can be associated with it; but a general date is presumed to be in the mid 1480’s — later than La Primavera and perhaps around the same time as The Birth of Venus.
Here we are presented with a clothed Venus and a sleeping Mars, so fast asleep that one of the fauns who are apparently making off with his armor and lance, cannot wake him even with a blast on a ram’s horn.
The assumption is that the two have made love and Mars has fallen asleep afterwards, as men are often wont to do. It may be something of a sly poke at the new husband, or it could be part of the interpretation often made of the scene that love conquers war.
The face of Mars is rendered in a difficult upward foreshortening, lit from below. In the face of Venus, Botticelli has given us another of his entrancingly beautiful women’s faces — perhaps the same face as that seen from another angle in The Birth of Venus.