An Astrologer’s View of Botticelli’s Venus Paintings
Published in The Astrological Journal July-Aug 2018
‘Within man is the soul of the whole, the wise silence, the universal beauty to which every part and particle is equally related, the eternal One.’ (Emerson)
How to explain the haunting enigma of Botticelli’s Venus paintings? Over the centuries many interpretations of the Primavera, the Birth of Venus, and Venus and Mars have been suggested, but their meaning remains elusive. Art historians have described their historical and philosophical background, critics have delved into their literary and pictorial sources, but their mystery still intrigues us. Perhaps an astrological approach to these great works of art could throw new light on them
We know that two of the paintings -The Birth of Venus and the Primavera - were commissioned for Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici to be hung in the villa given to him by his cousin, Lorenzo il Magnifico ruler of Florence, on his fifteenth birthday in 1478. Around that date his tutor, Marsilio Ficino, philosopher and court astrologer, sent him a copy of his horoscope accompanied by a letter. The chart has not survived but the letter has. In it the young man is recommended to ‘fix his eyes on Venus.’[i]
Ficino, along with his other teachers, had the task of moulding young Lorenzo into a just and wise administrator – not an easy job as he was restless, irascible and attracted to wild company! It seems that Ficino had seen the strong, unruly Mars in his chart, and was hoping it could be civilized by a generous dose of Venus! Thus he recommends Lorenzo to keep ‘the form of divine beauty’ always before his eyes, and this he meant quite literally, as Botticelli was commissioned around this time to paint the Birth of Venus to be hung in the private apartments of Lorenzo’s villa.
In the letter accompanying the chart, after making some positive comments about the condition of his planets, Ficino wrote, ‘Just as the astrologers call happy the man for whom fate has thus arranged the heavenly bodies, so the theologians deem him happy who has disposed his own self in a similar way…you will be greater than the heavens as soon as you resolve to face them. We must not look for these matters outside ourselves, for all the heavens are within us.’[ii]
Rather than using astrology in the classical predictive tradition of his day, Ficino is recommending it here as a tool for self-development and spiritual growth – recalling its use in the ancient mystery schools. The reason for his chart interpretation is to make Lorenzo aware of his personality patterns, and encourage him to take responsibility for them. In other words he wants the lad to get in touch with his issues and start working on himself!
Ficino believed in spiritual refinement through contemplating sacred images – not a new idea in Catholic Italy. However the main figure in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is a pagan goddess. And, although the way the figures are positioned is tableau-like, as in the conventional Biblical scenes, and the size of the painting is equally monumental, we’re not in church but in nature. Also, unlike the representations of the Virgin Mary, Venus is stark naked!
A copy of the Corpus Hermeticum in Greek had been acquired by Ficino’s patron, Cosimo de Medici, back in the 1460’s. It constitutes the main body of the Hermetica – a compilation of ancient texts from different authors attributed to the legendary Hermes Trismegistus.[iii] Ficino, at that time was busy translating the works of Plato, and was ordered to put these aside and give the Corpus priority. Cosimo was fascinated by the Hermetic philosophy it contained, and curious no doubt about the magical practices the Hermetica describe – how to get statues to speak oracles for example, and how to perform ‘sympathetic magic’ using the occult correspondences between planets, stones and metals.
Cosimo founded an academy in Florence modeled on the renowned academies of antiquity of Pythagoras and Plato. Philosophy, geometry and astrology were studied there in a monastery-like setting, students took a vow to live a pure life dedicated to the study of higher knowledge, and meditative practices were taught to further spiritual development. Ficino was its principal, Botticelli was a student there, and the teenage Lorenzo was also enrolled– no doubt in the hope that some meditation would do him good!
It was a quantum-leap moment in the history of Western culture, and the paradigm-changing views taught in the academy helped fuel the Italian Renaissance. In the Hermetic books an ancient vision of nature and human life in relation to the cosmos was uncovered. The universe was described as an organism with inbuilt intelligence and a cosmic-sized psyche – the anima mundi. Creation was still attributed to God, but rather than dwelling afar in a remote and separate heaven, he was conceived as ‘the Oneness that subsumes the parts.’
The basic cosmology of the Hermetica is explained this quote: ‘The All and the One are identical. You think that things are many when you view them as separate, but when you see they all hang on the One and flow from the One, you realize they are united, linked together and connected by a Chain of Being from the highest to the lowest.’[iv]
This all-inclusive view of the world, together with the mystical philosophy of the Neo-Platonists[v], encouraged a new relationship between man and the divine. It also promoted a devotional attitude towards Nature, no longer seen as ‘fallen’ but permeated with divinity. Stars, vegetation, even stones possessed a numinous dimension, and this mystical approach to the natural world is evident in Botticelli’s paintings where, down to the tiniest daisy, the many different flower species he includes shine with a radiant vitality of detail.
The new thinking also upgraded the status of the human being within the cosmos. Man was no longer viewed as the miserable fallen sinner of Christian sermons. He had been created in the divine image and therefore possessed nobility – even grandeur. Painters and sculptors portrayed once more the beauty of the naked human form, and Renaissance humanism was engendered leading up to Hamlet’s famous speech, ‘What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason…. how like a god!’
Plato had spoken of a universal mind containing all the fundamental Ideas and Forms that structure the world, and the Hermetic writings describe the categories of the subsidiary ideas deriving from them with their many associations. It was the first formulation in Western culture of an archetypal cosmos, making the astrological correlations logical and comprehensible.[vi] For example, the planet Venus belongs archetypally to the same category as the metal copper, the rose flower and the kidneys in the body, which all derive from the over-arching Venus principle.
In our era the psychologist Carl Jung re-discovered these creative ordering principles and named them ‘archetypes’. Having located them at first in the collective unconscious, later on in his career he saw them as cosmic in scope. An understanding of archetypes will help us interpret the meaning of the figures we meet in Botticelli’s Venus paintings,where multiple characters represent different aspects of the goddess.
Over the millennia many manifestations of Venus have emerged from the anima mundi – Isis, Inanna, Aphrodite, the Roman Venus, Sophia, and the Virgin Mary for example. In Hermetic cosmology the inner world of Ideas is seen as generating what we experience in the physical outer world – a philosophical stance that’s being taken seriously again today. Also the existence of an infinitely vast, all-containing cosmic mind is once more on the cards. Some modern scientific thinking in the areas of quantum mechanics, systems theory, consciousness studies and depth psychology support this conception.[vii]
The anthropologist Joseph Campbell saw the gods of mythology as deriving from archetypal principles. He wrote, ‘The god may appear in any one or more of a number of forms together…. which are to be recognized as aspects of a single polymorphous principle, symbolized in, yet beyond all.’[viii] In other words he’s saying look beyond individual characteristics to the underlying archetype. And in this vein I’ll go on to suggest that all the female characters in the Primavera are permutations of the Venus archetype.[ix]
Gods are personifications of different facets of the primary archetypes within the anima mundi. While they come and go with the rise and fall of cultures, however, the archetypes remain. They’re as eternal as numbers and geometric shapes. So in the cosmos, as I see it, there are the archetypes as primary creative Ideas proceeding from the divine Oneness. Then there are gods and goddesses that are their culturally dependent manifestations. There are sun, moon and planets in the sky, which are physical expressions of archetypes, and finally there are their psychological equivalents in the human inner sky that astrologers work with.[x]
I believe the archetypal astrologer and Botticelli the painter share a similar conception of the world. In a complex Botticelli painting such as Primavera everything is connected through being related symbolically to its core archetype - Venus. Similarly the astrologer explains an experience by associating it with a certain planet, whose meaning is then interpreted in the context of the wider patterning of the relevant archetypal principles. Everything hangs together in a horoscope, and its interpretation expands the layers of meaning until they reach the whole. Thus I’m recommending we adopt the astrologer’s approach for understanding the deeper meanings of Botticelli’s paintings, because everything in them stands for so much more than itself.
The Birth of Venus
‘Beauty is the first glimpse of the divine. Wherever you see beauty, remember you are on holy ground.’(Plotinus)
Ficino, who was steeped in the ideas of Neo-Platonism, saw the contemplation of beauty as spiritually transformative. And Botticelli, his student, was influenced to see the creation of divine beauty as a painter’s highest aim. However in Lorenzo’s case, whether the commissioning of the Birth of Venus helped to mollify him is questionable. Looking at his birth chart (a modern version is attached) we see a weak Venus in fall, conjuncting Uranus and heading a yod linking it with Saturn in Aquarius and moon in Aries.
With such a pattern in his make-up Lorenzo may have been wary of woman and unimpressed by the female beauty portrayed in Birth of Venus. But Ficino believed paintings have the power to affect us subliminally, and in one of his books he recommends hanging painted images in the rooms we live in so we absorb their beauty. No doubt he knew of the tradition going back to ancient Egypt of using paintings and statues as magic talismans for invoking the gods. [xi]
The Picatrix is a Hermetic book he’s likely to have owned which gives instructions for making them. It tells how to ‘make up images similar to celestial natures with special materials, and by means of wonderful artificers attracting the qualities of the stars to them, thus making men happy and powerful.’[xii] Ficino, who possessed the astrological know-how needed, may have tried his hand at this. Thus the powerful spell the Birth of Venus has cast down the centuries over its spectators may derive from it having been created as an astrological talisman that was programmed to draw down the ‘spiritus’ of the planet Venus.[xiii]
If we look at this picture, we’re struck by how ethereal and weightless Venus seems, balanced on her scallop shell. Although she appears to have the perfectly formed body of a comely young maiden, it may be not her physical but her subtle body that we’re seeing, because this is a depiction of Venus as the soul, who at this stage is not yet physically incarnated. However, she’ll soon reach the shore, where a different manifestation Venus awaits ready to wrap her in a cloak of flesh.
According to legend, Venus arose from the froth on the waves of the sea, and we wonder at how this beautiful form of such harmonious complexity could emerge from the simple mingling of oxygen and water molecules. The wonder of the original creation of life as such is being referenced here by Botticelli – how did life in all its symmetry and complexity arise from the chaotic atoms swirling in the primeval oceans? The answer lies in the scallop shell on which Venus balances, which has also emerged from the sea, and which demonstrates Plato’s teaching on the transcendent mathematical principles ordering material creation. In other words the sacred geometry of the shell, with its twelve sections, is witness to invisible archetypal structuring.
According to the myth related by Hesiod, Venus’ origins were violent and cruel. Her father, Uranus the sky god, was castrated by his son Saturn, and his sexual parts were tossed into the ocean. However, as Hesiod explains, the principles of divine form were preserved in the scattered semen, and through the action of the waves marvelously came together in the shape of this paragon of beauty.
Botticelli portrays Venus being born of the four elements – from the light and heat of the sun (fire), from the nourishing water of the sea (water) from the winds that give her their breath (air) and from the shore where she’ll soon alight (earth). Since ancient times the elements have been seen as the fundamental states of matter out of which the material universe emerges. And, when a soul descends to earth, it enters through the domains of the elements where each contribute to it their part.
Ficino saw the elements through pagan eyes as alive with spirits. And in Birth of Venus the spirits of air are depicted as a pair of twins, one male and one female. As an astrologer, Ficino knew that the symbols of the zodiac’s three air signs are composed of pairs of parallel lines, standing for the duality inherent in the thinking process, air equating with the mind. And the twins also point to the primary schism in the archetypal cosmos – the division separating male and female.
According to Plato, there’s also a division in the Venus principle which produces two forms of the archetype – Venus-Urania and Venus-Pandemos.[xiv] Astrologers identify the former with Venus as the ruler of the air sign Libra, standing for Platonic love or the love of true minds. Venus-Pandemos is identified with Venus as ruler of the earth sign Taurus, and stands for physically embodied, sensuous love. Both are in this picture, Venus-Urania expressed in the beauty of the maiden on the scallop shell, born from the seed of the sky god, and Venus-Pandemos in the beauty of the earth-mother at one with blossoming, burgeoning Nature and waiting to greet her on the shore.
Therefore the painting catches the moment just before Venus-Urania morphs into Venus-Pandemos. Once she’s arrived on shore, and her nakedness has been covered by the flowery cloak, she’ll be physically alive, warm, and eminently desirable. But when such exquisite beauty appears in our world it awakens desire, and desire leads to seduction – which is its evolutionary purpose. Thus Venus will not stay a virgin much longer and her pristine beauty is ephemeral.
Venus and Mars
The soul is Aphrodite of the heavens, here turned harlot, and yet the soul is always an Aphrodite! (Plotinus)
We have seen how Ficino, in his letter to the young Lorenzo, used astrology to draw attention to his personality traits, and recommend him to take responsibility for them. It was especially urgent to correct the way he expressed his Mars, and, we’ll have to agree, if we look at his chart, that becoming aware of his Mars pattern was the only way forward!
It’s in Scorpio, conjunct Chiron and the south node, and involved in a difficult fixed T-square with Saturn and his sun-Pluto conjunction, which would tend to make him passionate, intransigent, relentless and revengeful. And though can also be loyal, dedicated and fearless when fighting for justice causes, and he never gives in, the driving force of Mars is fueled by deep resentments within him. And the violent outbursts of rage that can occur when his will is frustrated would be devastating for those on the receiving end.
We know he hated his powerful cousin Lorenzo il Magnifico, who he saw as a tyrant, and that he connived to have him deposed by the French when they later invaded Florence. There was a long-standing quarrel over debts and inheritance between his branch of the Medici family and that of his cousin (Mars quincunx his Aries moon). Later in life he battled against him in long-drawn-out law suits that ‘did not show his character to the best advantage’ as Gombrich puts it! [xv]
However Lorenzo must have cut an impressive figure with his pride and intense charisma, – Leo sun conjunct Pluto trining his moon. His Mercury-Uranus-Venus stellium attracted him to advanced ideas together with a love of new movements in art of which he became a connoisseur. It brought two amazing geniuses into his sphere, as he was not only Botticelli’s long-term patron but he also became a friend and patron of the divine Michelangelo!
A salutary lesson for his Mars is taught by Botticelli’s painting Venus and Mars. It’s date is uncertain but, following a narrative thread I’m tracing in these Venus paintings, I’d put it after the Birth of Venus, because now the goddess has come ashore. She’s pictured reclining on the earth, clad in a beautiful physical body which inevitably arouses lust in the male of the species. The positioning of Venus and Mars opposite one another mirrors the oppositions in the zodiac between the signs they rule (Aries opposite Libra and Taurus opposite Scorpio) indicating polar opposite values. As John Gray puts it, ‘Men are from Mars women are from Venus’. Thus these two are fated to misunderstand each other’s signals, and have different expectations of their relationship. It’s the human condition which Botticelli handles here with delicate irony.
Venus’ posture and expression of aloof superiority imply she’s not yet submitted to her lover’s advances. He lies spent at her feet, though not sleeping peacefully. The satyrs with lewd grins who play with his long phallic pike could reflect the content of his dreams, while the bees buzzing round his head could represent the disturbing urges that Venus has incited in him. The painting demonstrates what Ficino has been trying to teach Lorenzo – that Venus can conquer Mars because love is the strongest thing in the universe.
The bees have emerged from a vulva-like hole in the tree trunk. And, though the critics tend to see them as wasps, I prefer bees as it links the theme of this painting to an old fable, popular during the Renaissance, which tells how Cupid stole some honey from a bees’ nest and got stung - the moral being that sexual pleasure is always mixed with pain. The German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach has painted the scene, and, if we compare his painting with this portrayal of Venus by Botticelli, we’ll find that Cranach’s Venus is much more of a slut![xvi]
The planets were believed by Renaissance astrologers to have been created by a demi-urge, and thus were morally ambiguous, and expressed the seven vices as well as the seven virtues. The Venus vice was lust. Venus, it was taught, makes faithful wives but also ‘fornicators and whores who do shameful deeds…for they become incontinent in their vices because of Venus.’[xvii] And it was Ficino’s job as Lorenzo’s mentor to help the young lad recognize the difference!
‘The whole of astrology is nothing other than the translation of reality into celestial language.’ (Ficino) [xviii]
Central to Botticelli’s Venus paintings is the greatest myth of all – the myth on which the pagan mystery cycle turned – of the descent (incarnation on earth) and re-ascent of the soul (return to heaven). In ancient Greece the lesser Mysteries were celebrated in the spring at Agrai and the greater at Eleusis in the autumn, and Ficino would have had some knowledge of their initiatory rites and life-changing purpose.[xix]
A second surviving letter, written to his protégé when he was eighteen, tells him the Gnostic tale of the lost and redeemed goddess, an allegory of the fall and redemption of the Venus principle in human life.[xx] Psyche is a pure soul living with her father in heaven. He gives her everything she needs, but she’s restless and runs away. Born into a body, she falls into the hands of bad men who pass her between them. Some seduce her with gifts, others rape her. She becomes a prostitute, though secretly hoping that each man she embraces will be her husband. Afterwards she’s filled with regret, but as soon as she escapes one man she runs to the next.
Eventually they all abandon her and she ends up a forlorn widow without sustenance. In desperation she prays to her father, who promises to send his firstborn from heaven to be her bridegroom, but first she must change her ways. So after washing off the foul odours of her abusers, she prepares a bridal chamber, filling it with sweet perfumes. And there she waits. Eventually her brother comes to take her as his bride, and from henceforth she devotes herself solely to her true bridegroom.
The scene in Primavera is set in a dark grove of orange trees, the piece of architecture visible top right suggesting a temple or woodland shrine. It could represent Agrai where the rites of Spring were celebrated each year. We see a scantily dressed nymph (Chloris) being pursued by a zephyr whose colour suggests the god Dionysus. In the Bacchic Mysteries he represented the male sexual energy in Nature. Chloris, is a Proserpina, young and innocent and about to be ravished by a Pluto. She represents Venus as the yet unfallen virgin goddess.
Led by a connecting myrtle branch, the eye of the spectator then moves to beautiful Flora, goddess of flowers and the Spring with her lap full of blossoms. Flora, a manifestation of Venus-Pandemos, played a central role in the ancient cults that celebrated female sexuality, and her rotund shape in this picture hints that she’s already been impregnated. In other words Flora, is expecting.
In the centre of the picture a statuesque Venus stands blessing the proceedings, her head framed by a halo of light that filters through the branches. She has the demeanour of a troubadour’s love object worshipped from afar, but at the same time she’s the nature goddess presiding over this sensuous and erotic celebration of Spring. And, if my interpretation of her bulbous shape is right, she’s pregnant too. Thus she unites Venus-Urania and Venus Pandemos in a pagan version of the virgin-mother. No wonder people have commented that she reminds them of the Virgin Mary!
In the left foreground her attendants, the Three Graces, are frozen in their dance Traditionally they represent three aspects of Venus whose names vary according to the ethics of the different cultural contexts of their representations – Chastity, Beauty and Pleasure being the most common. It was an axiom of Plato’s theology that ‘every god exerts his power in a triadic rhythm,’[xxi] and their dance, which unfolds a cyclic pattern in time, has three phases whose order is debatable. First chastity, then Beauty then Pleasure?
There’s a parallel here with the cycle of the cardinal, fixed and mutable modes of time in astrology. I suggest Chastity (the middle Grace) is cardinal and expresses the virginal phase of ideal love, Beauty (on the right) is fixed and expresses the faithful love of the wife, and Pleasure (on the left) is mutable, expressing the changeable love of a woman who is single and sexually-experienced.
The Graces are united by the knot made by their raised hands in which an upward-pointing triangle appears. Botticelli, who studied under Ficino, would understand the triangle to be a symbol of the trinity and contain the time-transcending mystery of three in one and one in three. Thus the three manifestations of Venus as three phases in a woman’s life, are wound into a unity by the dance and transformed by the spiritual love uniting them.
Cupid is hovering over Venus’ head. As her constant companion he represents the male content in her archetypal make-up that delights in putting the cat amongst the pigeons. He’s about to fire an arrow – Venus is not above inciting seduction even when in the guise of the Virgin Mary! I see a narrative in this picture that’s connected with Ficino’s purpose to reform Lorenzo and which links Cupid, the Graces and Mercury. It was common to include portraits of patrons in the scenes that were painted for them at that period, and I believe Lorenzo has been painted here as the god Mercury.
It was also common for noblemen to be betrothed in their teens, and when Lorenzo was fifteen, at the time this painting was commissioned, his family would have been negotiating a lucrative marriage for him. He was actually married four years later aged nineteen to a noblewoman called Semiramide Appiano – relatively late for those days, so why the delay? Could it be that the strong-willed Lorenzo, with his Venus-Uranus conjunction, had vigorously resisted marriage until then? Then Ficino had had an ulterior motive in recommending him to fix his eyes on Venus that was to awaken his desire for women?
It sounds likely as the earlier letter I quoted also reveals that his bride had already been chosen. ‘My dear Lorenzo,’ Ficino writes, ‘a nymph of such nobility has been wholly given into your power. If you were to unite with her in wedlock and claim her as yours she would make all your years sweet and make you the father of fine children.’ [xxii]
It’s been suggested that Semiramide, his betrothed, is also in the Primavera, portrayed as the middle Grace we see in profile, and I go along with that because she’s the only one taking an interest in Mercury, and Cupid is aiming his arrow at her. When it hits she’ll be stricken with love. Mercury, however, shows no interest, either in her or in any of the other desirable women celebrating the Rights of Spring in his company. He’s preoccupied with dispersing the clouds above his head with his wand.
Although most critics take him to be Mercury, a few have suggested that he’s Mars, and I’ve decided to settle for a hybrid of the two (which is allowable in the archetypal cosmos where archetypes divide and merge). My reasons are that, though at least one wing is visible on one of his sandals, his helmet is wingless and adorned instead with a phallic spike that’s more appropriate for a piece of Martian headgear. Also the rod he holds up is not a caduceus, but more like a wand. His cloak is a Martian red and he carries a sharply pointed sword – not a Mercury accessory. Thus this figure combines both Lorenzo’s strong Mars and his strong Mercury conjunct Uranus, which has attracted him to occult studies, including astrology. Hence his interest in the sky.
In spite of the sextile linking Lorenzo’s Mars and Venus, they are not well-aspected for romance and marriage. His Mars is wounded (conjunct Chiron and the south node) while his relations with women would also be disturbed by his moon in Aries opposite Neptune, pointing to a childhood in which loving care was missing due to the ill health or early death of his mother. Also Uranus conjunct Venus indicates a strong need for freedom in relationships, and it often indicates sexual ambiguity. In fact, Lorenzo may have been disposed to prefer the company of boys to girls. Poor Semiramide!
To conclude, these paintings describe the different forms of love represented by Venus in mythology and astrology, and bear witness to the eternal archetype of love and beauty in our own depths which we catch a glimpse of in Botticelli’s visions. They are also about time and its transcendence, and within the context of the Mystery cycle they eternalize the moment just before the goddess falls. Spring is soon over. The zephyr will have his way with Chloris. Cupid will let fly his arrow. Semiramide will fall in love with Lorenzo, and be stung by the bees in the marriage bed. Venus will step ashore, and Mars will succeed next time he attempts to seduce her. Thus, though the descent from ideal love to human is inevitable, through his art Botticelli is able to freeze time and hold fast the beauty of the perfect moment of innocence trembling on the brink of change.
[i] Gombrich, E.H. Gombrich on the Renaissance Volume 2, 1972, London, Phaidon Press, p 33
[ii] Ibid. p. 41
[iii] For the ancient Egyptian rather than Greek origins of the Hermetic books see Fowden Garth, The Egyptian Hermes, and Lachman Gary The Quest for Hermes Trismegistus.
[iv] Freke Timothy and Gandy Peter, The Hermetica, 1997, London, Piatkus, p.46
[v] The Neo-Platonists were a group of philosophers, the most significant being Plotinus, living in the first centuries CE who developed their own mystical version of Plato’s philosophy.
[vi] For an up-to-date formulation of this view see Le Grice, Kieron, The Archetypal Cosmos, Floris Books, Edinburgh
[vii] See Wyss Phoebe, Inside the Cosmic Mind: Archetypal Astrology and the new Cosmology, 2014, Edinburgh, Floris Books
[viii] Campbell, Joseph, Occidental Mythology (1973) London, Penguin books, p. 12
[ix] For more on the multivalence and multi-dimensionality of archetypes see Tarnas Richard, Cosmos and Psyche, pp 80-86, 2008, Viking Press, New York
[x] See Tarnas Richard, Cosmos and Psyche, ‘Archetypal Principles pp 80-86 (Viking Press, New York, 2006)
[xi] Yates Francis, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (1964 London, Routledge & Kegan Paul. p.60
[xii] Garin Eugenio, Astrology in the Renaissance 1976, London Routledge & Kegan Paul, p.45
[xiii] Ficino Marsilio, De Vita III, 19. On making a figure of the universe.
[xiv] Wind Edgar, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance 1958, Faber & Faber, London, p.118
[xv] Gombrich, Ibid. p.42
[xvi] See Cupid complaining to Venus by Lucas Cranach
[xvii] Garin, Ibid. p. ix
[xviii] Garin Ibid. p.74
[xix] The Roman writer Apuleius’ book The Golden Ass was popular in the Renaissance among those interested the ancient mysteries, locked away for centuries by an oath of secrecy, as it described what Apuleius calls ‘their dark descending and luminous ascending rites’ in the form of an allegory.
[xx] Quoted by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy in Jesus and the Goddess (2001), London, Thorsons.
[xxi] Wind Edgar. Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance, 1958, London, Faber and Faber p.50
[xxii] Gombrich Ibid. p.42