Venus and Mars
, a painting completed after Primavera
and probably executed around 1483, also takes love as its dominant theme . The central figures of the
picture are Venus and Mars, God of War, who are lying facing each other in a grotto of myrtle trees. The myrtles, sacred to Venus, make it clear that the enclosed area is the territory of the
Goddess of Love. Half-sitting, she is looking with an assured and attentive gaze at Mars, who is sunk in the deepest of sleeps not even the satyrs playing around him are capable of waking him
whom she has successfully distracted from his aggressive activities, so that the little satyrs are utilizing his weapons as toys. Here too, however, we are concerned less with the triumph of
love over warlike violence than with the surmounting of sensual desire through one's enlightened love of God.
The image may be based on the Stanze of Poliziano. Stanze 122 describes how the hero found Venus "seated on the edge of her couch, just then released from the embrace of Mars, who lay on his
back in her lap, still feeding his eyes on her face". Poliziano was one of the humanist scholars in the court of Lorenzo de' Medici, and in his stanze he alludes to Giuliano di Piero de' Medici's
prowess in a jousting tournament his older brother Lorenzo had organized to celebrate a treaty with Venice.