Venus and Mars. c. 1483.Tempera on panel 69 × 173 cm National Gallery, London (w)
Botticelli has depicted the satyrs with goat’s feet, tails and horns, in mythology satyrs are often associated with Bacchus, God of Wine. Two satyrs seem intent on carrying away Mars’ lance, one has pulled the God of War’s helmet over his own head, while on the far lower right of the painting another is cheekily crawling through Mars’ breast-plate adding to the humour of the scene.
The artist has taken inspiration from the writings of the classical poet Lucian and was no doubt also guided by the Medici house poet Poliziano. The picture was intended for the Vespucci family, close associates of the Medici, the Vespucci coat of arms has the motif of a wasp incorporated into it. The Vespucci name derives from Vespa (Italian for wasp). This would explain the nest of buzzing wasps that Botticelli painted just above the head of Mars.
Mars is in a deep sleep and not even the satyrs' mischievous play can awaken him. They are using his weapons and armour to amuse themselves and one even attempts to wake Mars by blowing in his ear through a seashell. Another is wearing Mars' helmet and, with his two companions, attempts to steal away with the warriors lance.
In this detail we can see a cheeky and mischievous satyr who has crawled into Mars' breast-plate, the God of War remains undisturbed by the commotion created by the playful satyrs.