Ficino | Human Nature. Inspiration for Botticelli’s Venus?

This exquisite description paints an image in the heart which reminds us of the innate beauty of the human being. Were it not for the sweet grace of love, its kinship, gentleness and magnanimity, human life would be bereft of all harmony, majesty and honour

It has been suggested that this passage may have inspired Botticelli to paint the central figure of Venus in his Primavera. This painting was a wedding gift (in 1482) to Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, who was also the recipient of this letter .

Laura Hyde


Principio, Luna quid nam in nobis significat aliud preter nostram illam continuam animi et corporis motionem? Mars deinde celeritatem, tarditatem vero Saturnus. Proinde Sol Deum, Iupiter legem, Mercurius rationem, Venus humanitatem……

Demum in Venerem ipsam, id est, humanitatem, figat intuitum. Qua videlicet admonet, ut meminerit non posse a nobis in terris magnum aliquid possideri, nisi homines ipsos possideamus, quorum gratia terrena omnia sunt creata. Homines autem non alia prorsus esca, quam humanitate capi. Eam cave ne quando contemnas, forte existimans humanitatem humi natam.  Est enim humanitas ipsa praestanti corpore nympha, coelesti origine nata Aethaereo ante alias dilecta Deo. Siquidem eius anima spiritusque sunt amor et charitas. Oculi eiusdem gravitas et magnanimitas. Manus praeterea liberalitas atque magnificentia. Pedes quoque comitas et modestia. Totum denique temperantia et honestas, decus et splendor.

First, what else does the moon in us signify other than that continuous movement of our mind and body? Next Mars signifies swiftness and Saturn tardiness; the Sun signifies God; Jupiter, law; Mercury, reason; Venus, human nature…….

Lastly, let this Moon fix its gaze on Venus herself, which is human nature, by whom it is, of course, warned to remember that nothing great can be possessed by us on earth, unless we men, for whose benefit all earthly things were created, possess ourselves; and to remember that men can be taken by no other bait whatsoever than their own nature. Beware that you never despise it, perhaps thinking that human nature is born of earth, for human nature herself is a nymph with body surpassing. She was born of a heavenly origin and was beloved above others by an ethereal god. For indeed, her soul and spirit are love and kinship; her eyes are majesty and magnanimity; her hands are liberality and greatness in action; her feet, gentleness and restraint. Finally, her whole is harmony and integrity, honour and radiance.


Chosen by Laura Hyde. Translation by the Language Department of the School of Economic Science, reproduced by kind permission of Shepheard-Walwyn publishers.

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