Detail, The birth of Venus, c 1484, Tempera on wood.  Ufizzi Gallery Florence

Detail, Primavera, c 1482, Grease tempera on wood.  Ufizzi Gallery Florence

Venus and Mars, 1480-90, The National Gallery, London


The shape of this work suggests that it was probably a backboard for a bench or chest, decorated for a marriage. Venus, goddess of Love and Beauty, watches while her lover Mars, god of War, sleeps. Nothing is going to wake this guy up - the baby satyrs are trying hard with a conch shell blown straight into his ear, wasps buzz around his head (diffiult to make them out I know, but they are in the right hand corner). The wasps have been thought to give away the identity of the patron for this painting. The Italian for wasps is vespe, and Botticelli was known to have worked for the Vespucci family - a clever pun). This is a playful picture, it alludes to, as Erika Langmuir suggests "the notion that making love exhausts a man while it invigorates a woman".