The half-man half-horse centaur satisfies
his lust by hunting nymphs in the forest, he has strayed into forbidden territory
and is in the process of stringing his bow in preparation for the hunt. Pallas Athene
has surprised him, grasping his hair with a twisting motion causing him to grimace
in pain, she carries a halberd suggesting that she is the guardian of the land
that the centaur has strayed into.
Botticelli has included the three interlocking
rings emblem of the Medici family as a decorative element on the clothing of
the Goddess of wisdom, it is yet another indication that this painting was
indeed intended for the Medici family. Athene has the branches of the olive
tree twisted around her arms and body (the olive tree is a sacred symbol for
the Goddess of Wisdom) and the halberd represents the lance another symbol
associated with the Goddess.
painting represents the victory of chastity, Athene, over lust, the centaur. Sandro Botticelli's Mythological series of paintings - Primavera, The Birth of Venus, Venus and Mars and Pallas and the Centaur are the basis of his present-day popularity.