In Greek mythology, the Graces were minor goddesses who represented the feminine characteristics of beauty, charm, and grace. Although some sources varied as to the number of Graces, according to the poet Hesiod there were three—Aglaea (Radiance), Euphrosyne (Joy), and Thalia (Flowering). The Graces are also known as the Charites in Greek, or the Gratiae in Latin.
The daughters of Zeus, the Graces were associated most closely with the deities of fertility, especially Aphrodite, the goddess of love. They presided over banquets and other social festivities, and they made spring flowers grow. The Graces granted beauty and charm to art, scholarly works, and all other forms of human activities. The Romans considered them symbols of gratitude. In Greece, the Graces had cults* dedicated to them, the most famous one located in Boeotia.
The Graces were popular subjects for Greek and Roman statues and paintings. They were often shown naked to indicate their innocence. Most artwork depicted them dancing, walking, or interlaced with one another. A painting of the Graces adorns a wall in the Roman city of Pompeii. The Graces inspired artists even during the Renaissance* in Europe. The most famous painting of the Graces is Primavera by the Italian artist Botticelli. (See also Cults; Divinities; Muses.)
* cult group bound together by devotion to a particular person, belief, or god
* Renaissance period of the rebirth of interest in classical art, literature, and learning that occurred in Europe from the late 1300s through the 1500s