A Young Man Being Introduced to the Seven Liberal Arts, 1468 by Sandro Botticelli
This mythological painting constitutes an unusually homogeneous group, not only in pictorial content but also in stylistic expression. It is probable that they functioned as wedding pictures. The predominant subject is the elevation of love, as illustrated by the idealized female figure. The female forms are distinguished by their beauty, loveliness and gracefulness, qualities that are not found to such a degree in religious paintings of this period and which create a sense of distance between them and the observer through their perfection.
The painting depicts Lorenzo Tornabuoni being led by the personification of Grammar into the circle of the Seven Liberal Arts, over which Prudentia (Wisdom) sits enthroned. In antiquity, the study of the seven liberal arts constituted the basic knowledge upon which all further studies built. The individual Arts may be recognized by means of their attributes: Rhetoric, in the left background, through her scroll; Logic through her scorpion, whose pincers convey the idea of the polarizing positions of dialectic thought; Arithmetic through a sheet with mathematical formulae. These are followed by Wisdom on a raised seat, then Geometry with a rule triangle, Astronomy with her celestial sphere, and finally Music, with a tambourine and a small portative organ. Grammar has been portrayed, in accordance with tradition, as a teacher accompanied by a child. Here she is escorting Lorenzo to the Arts. He is being greeted by Wisdom, who bears an olive staff in her left hand, to be understood as symbolizing the harmony prevailing among the Arts. Lorenzo's introduction into the circle of the Liberal Arts testifies to his broad education: before entering into the banking business - he was to succeed his father as head of the Rome branch - he had been taught literature, languages, and philosophy. Lorenzo's affinity for numbers, on which the emphasis of his education will surely have been placed, is conveyed by the hand which Arithmetic holds out to him in greeting: moreover, she is the only one of the Liberal Arts to regard him attentively and - together with Wisdom - to explicitly bid him welcome.