Looking at Art

Monday: Let’s Look at Art….The Birth of Venus, c.1485 by Botticelli

Monday: Let’s Look at Art

The Birth of Venus, c.1485 by Botticelli

Artist: Sandro Botticelli (completed between 1482-1485)

Is one of the most famous and appreciated work’s of art. It is a landmark piece for 15th century Italian art. One of the most treasured pieces of artwork from the Renaissance.

It is a large piece; roughly 6 feet by 9 feet.


Background: Aside from his painting, Primavera the Birth of Venus is Botticelli’s most famous painting. Created for the Medici family.

Survived the bonfire of the vanities (February 7, 1497). Christians were directed to burn art, mirrors, and jewelry which promoted sin.

Carefully restored in 1987 because the coats of varnish that were used to protect started to turn opaque.


Influenced by: Theme came from Ovid’s “Metamorphosis” (an important piece of Latin writing).

It is also suggested that Botticelli was influenced by the works of the ancient poet, Homer.

There are references to “Stanza’s” a famous poetic work by Agnolo Poliziano

There’s a similar piece of sculpture in Florence called Medici Venus.

Also take in account 2nd century historian Lucian of masterpieces of Ancient Greece.


Art Movement or Genre: Renaissance


Medium: Is the first example of painting on canvas in Tuscany. The Birth of Venus is created out of tempera.

Also used expensive alabaster powder to create brighter colors.


Discussion of subject matter: Depicts the goddess Venus, she is painted naked on a seashell on the seashore. Nudity of females during this time period was uncommon.

She is slightly right of center with no figures overlapping her. The wind is blowing which creates a sense of movement (look at her air and the roses blowing to her left side).

On her right side is a handmaid Ora or Pomona (goddess of Spring) who is waiting to dress Venus.

On her left is the figure of Zephyrus (god of the west wind) carrying the nymph Chloris (who is alternatively identified as “Aura”) as he blows the wind to guide Venus towards the shoreline.

Venus has improbably long neck and her left shoulder slopes at an unlikely angle. Her head is tilted (skin is perfect with no blemishes and is a beautiful shade). Botticelli spent lots of time focused on Venus’s hairstyle. Her flesh looks almost like marble (milky skin) with a darker outline around her figure.

Seen as pagan since it was created in a time and place when most of artwork depicted Roman Catholic themes. Most paintings of women at this time depicted the Virgin Mary so Botticelli’s depiction of a goddess and the fact that she is painted nude makes this piece groundbreaking.


Sources: 

Uffizi Gallery in Florence

The Birth of Venus

Italian Renaissance

15 things you should know about the birth of Venus

Birth of Venus

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