The Transmogrification of Venus to Mary in the Works of Sandro Botticelli

2000 Words Apr 24th, 2006 8 Pages
The works of Sandro Botticelli are among the most revered of renaissance painting. The sweeping curves of his women and the ethereal beauty of their gazes are recognized instantaneously: from a grandmother in a small town to the cognoscenti of New York or Paris, few can claim to be unmoved by his work. Patronized by the Vatican as well as one of the most rich and powerful Florentines of his time, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici, Botticelli was hugely popular in his own day. His most magnificent work, the Primavera, as well as The Birth of Venus, Camilla and the Centaur, and Mars and Venus contain entirely mythological figures whose significances have been debated by various art historians for centuries. Born as Alessandro di …show more content…
Venus held just as much symbolism as the Virgin Mary at the time because she was being rediscovered in poems and writings from the Classical age, such as Homer's Hymn to Venus and Athenaeus' interpretation of the mythological story about the "golden apples," in the fabled Garden of Hesperides (these "golden apples," are actually oranges, however Hesperides did not have the word for it then). This classic may have influenced other writers such as Bocaccio in his Decameron, which in turn may have influenced Botticelli. Contemporary fourteenth and fifteenth century writers were also inspired by the Classics. In fact, Botticelli may have been inspired in part by Politian's Stanze in his depiction of the Zephyr's breath leaving a beautiful, botanically accurate bounty of flowers covering the ground in the Primavera (Venturi 72-75). Another plausible interpretation for why Botticelli uses the Venus and other mythological figures in his Primavera has to do with a letter that his great patron Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici received from a family acquaintance, Marsilio Ficino:
"Venus, that is to say, Humanitas,…is a nymph of excellent comeliness, born of heaven and more than others beloved by
God all highest. Her soul and mind are Love and Charity, her
Eyes Dignity and Magnanimity, the hands Liberality and
Magnificance, the feet Comeliness and Modesty. The whole,

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