Minerva and the Centaur by the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli, circa 1482. This painting was hung in the bedchamber of a Medici bride right next to the Primavera. The meaning Botticelli was portraying was that women have great power to tame the wild and lustful male.
This is one of Botticelli’s many paintings that explore the relationship between a man and a woman. This mythological painting shows, as in several of his paintings, the woman to have dominance over the man and be superior in both wisdom and virtue.
This is the same theme that Botticelli brought across in his Judith paintings. This female dominance is shown by the olive branches Botticelli painted on Minerva that are symbolic of the female virtue. The diamonds on Minerva’s dress and on the halberd (sword) she is carrying are also representative of virtue.
The three diamonds that are shown together on her dress could be representative of the Medici family.
Botticelli painted the female, Minerva, as a strong sentinel that is completely in control of the situation. She is a woman of virtue, entirely competent of shutting down the evil man-beast next to her. In contrast, the Centaur is her opposite. He is known for his lustful desires as well as his menacing appearance.
The rough rock wall next to him, helps portray is wild and beastly appearance. The centaur has passed into a forbidden area.
Minerva, who represents wisdom and intelligence, has gained victory over the sinful ways of the Centaur and clearly shows her triumph by easily grasping him by the head.