Birth of Venus


Birth of Venus
(c. 1485; Florence, Uffizi)
   Painted by Sandro Botticelli probably for Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici in whose house, the Villa Castello, the painting once hung alongside Botticelli's Primavera (c. 1482; Florence, Uffizi). The scene ultimately stems from a poem by the Greek Hesiod who wrote that Venus was born from the foam produced by Uranus' testicles when they were cut off by his son Saturn and thrown into the sea. The true source of Botticelli's painting, however, is an ekphrasis written by the poet Angelo Poliziano, from the Medici circle, on the reliefs cast by Vulcan for the doors of Venus' temple. In the work, Venus stands naked on a seashell and is being blown ashore by the winds. A female, identified either as Pomona (goddess of the trees), Flora (goddess of the flowers), or an Hour, greets her with a robe in hand. Venus' pose is that of a Venus Pudica type from antiquity, an image of the goddess covering her nudity with her arms. The painting does not follow nature. Instead, the figures are elongated, with little volume and anatomical detailing, milky complexions, complex curvilinear drapery folds, and hair strands that seem to take on a life of their own. Atmospheric perspective is absent in the landscape, so that every wave, cloud, and flower is clearly visible regardless of its distance from the fore-ground. Yet, while Botticelli ignored all the technical advances introduced to painting in the 15th century, he managed to produce a work that is graceful, elegant, and aesthetically pleasing.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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