History : Jul-Aug 2019
e—by the hair, a 4 VICTORY FOR THE MEDICI The period of Botticelli’s mythological paintings concluded with “Pallas and the Centaur,” completed around 1485. A woman holds a centaur—a mythical half man, half horse—by the hair, a gesture that tames him. The woman has been identified as either Camilla, a female warrior from Roman mythology, or Pallas Athene, Greek goddess of wisdom. Like “Primavera,” this work lends itself to several interpretations. One theory, which emerged in the 19th century, maintains that it is an exaltation of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who had concluded a peace treaty with the bellicose kingdom of Naples. In this allegory, the sea behind is the Bay of Naples. The centaur represents the uncouth King of Naples, while Pallas—whose gown Botticelli has covered with intricate details, including the emblem of the Medici—represents the wisdom and subtlety of Florence. This reading accords with a key tenet of Neoplatonic thought, in which coarse instincts must be tamed by reason.