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Venus and Mars

Roman Art

2nd century AD
Greek marble
215 cm (height x width)
1914 no. 4

In 1570 the statuary group was transferred from Rome to Florence where it was placed in Palazzo Pitti. After a parenthesis at the Uffizi, in 1794 the artwork arrived in the Medici Villa of Poggio Imperiale where it remained until 1825, when it returned definitively to the Uffizi.

The sculptural group shows the divine couple consisting of Venus, goddess of love and beauty, and Mars, god of war. The reference is to the mythological narrative of the love between the two divinities present in The Art of Love written by the Latin poet Ovid:

"History is well known in all the skies,

of Mars and Venus captured by Vulcan's deception.

Mars agitated by the mad desire for Venus

he transformed himself from a fearsome warrior into a lover ».

(Ovid, The Art of Love II, 561-564)

If Venus recalls the model of the Aphrodite of Capua, preserved at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, the second is inspired by the type of Ares Borghese (now kept in the Louvre), developed in Athens in the fifth century. B.C.

The goddess, represented by three quarters of her, is naked in the upper part of her body with her robe covering her from the waist down: she with her arms wraps her beloved, touching his chest with her right hand. Ares is, with his "heroic nakedness", wearing a helmet with crest on his head, on his right shoulder a balteo, at the opposite end of which hangs a gladius.

The large size suggests a funeral destination, perhaps for a couple wishing to identify theirselves with the famous lovers. In fact, in the second century. AD, the sculptural group was adopted as a decoration of Roman reliefs and sarcophagi to symbolize the immortality of the love bond.



Cecchi A., Gasparri C. (a cura di), La villa Médicis. Le collezioni del Cardinale Ferdinando, 4, Roma 2009.

Text by
Federica Calabrese
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