The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
“La Nascita di Venere”, the classical myth, is an iconic highlight of Italian Renaissance. The moment when the Goddess of Love emerges from the unknown depths of the sea, in bright striking colors, bringing spiritual beauty to the world as a driving force of life.
At the time of its creation, during the Middle Ages, most depictions of women symbolized Virgin Mary in a maternal, modest pose, with covered head and angelic smile. Botticelli dares to bring to life a beautiful goddess in voluptuous proportions, with long blonde hair caressed by Winds and surrounded by flowers. This shy, pale skinned creature, was depicted in a groundbreaking 6ft by 9ft canvas being the first large-scale painting and one of the first non-biblical female nudes in Italian art. It took 3 years to be completed, between 1482 and 1485, being today one of the landmarks of the Neo-Platonic thought.
This was also the time when Humanism was taking attention off the Roman Catholic influence, and the Italians were seeking to recapture the mythological glory of Rome under the threat of The Inquisition. The Birth of Venus – the daring nude, the rebirth of the pagan theme – had all the elements to be burnt by Catholic fire as so many others. However, this one was privately commissioned by members of the Medici family. A political dynasty who – among other influences – produced four Popes for the Catholic Church, two regent queens of France and one of the most prosperous and respected banking institutions in Europe. Their patronage of intellectuals and artists such as Botticelli, Michelangelo and Raphael made Florence the cultural center of the world, and left a legacy of some of the most influential works of art in History.
This masterpiece is also the first example in Tuscany of a painting on canvas, created with exceptional technique and the finest materials of its time. From malachite, copper green and ultramarine to cinnabar, red lake and carbon black – all producing colors that remain exceptionally alive more than five centuries later. The motion and light, the brilliance of the skin tones and the luxurious garden, the rich draperies, the entwined winds and flowers floating around the beautiful nude, show a mastery not only in the use of color but also in drawing and composition.
Such magnificent work had to come from a magnificent inspiration. The theme itself was proposed by Lorenzo de Medici, moved by his favorite poem of Angelo Poliziano. A description of the first day of creation when the gods of the winds, Zephyr and Aura, raised a shell bearing naked Venus from the depths of the sea. However, for the painter, such representation of beauty had a secret Muse. According to the popular culture it was Simonetta Vespucci, a married noble lady who was Botticcelli’s great nonreciprocal love – so much so that he was buried at her feet in 1510, upon his request, more than 30 years after her death.
Today the priceless Birth of Venus can be seen at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, one of the oldest and most famous art museums of the Western world. High quality hand painted oil rendition can also be found on overstockArt.com gallery so that all who love the theme – as many great minds in History – can take home this divine artistic icon.