Sunday, May 8, 2011

"The Birth of Venus" - Sandro Botticelli 1483

The Birth of Venus was painted by Sandro Botticelli in 1483, a time also known as the Renaissance. This European movement marked the end of medieval values, and it stressed the importance of individualism, humanism, and the natural world. Because Renaissance literally means “rebirth,” in this piece, Botticelli focuses on the birth of love in the world by depicting a beautiful nude woman coming to life in a tropical landscape (Britannica).

In the painting, a Greek-Roman goddess is emerging from the shore in a shell. This image is based on Poliziano’s poem, Giotra, in which the Heaven and Earth, on the left, and Hours, on the right, celebrate her entrance to the world (Britannica). Venus represents the ideal Renaissance woman: thin, pale, and curvy. Botticelli exaggerates the lengths of her neck and leg in order to bring the viewer’s attention to her beautiful features, which almost seem too perfect to exist. In fact, based on the woman’s stance and position at the very tip of the shell, it is actually impossible for her to be standing upright (Birth of Venus). Perhaps this is why the scene appears to be that of a fantasy, making the woman seem even more desirable.

Thematically, the woman in the center represents the beauty of life. Because women are the bearers of new life, Botecelli expresses Europe’s opinion of beautiful women as delicate, lovely givers of life. Venus herself is literally being “born” out of the shell. Because the woman’s hand and hair cover her, the woman is a virgin, a desirable trait in the fifteenth century. Men wanted their women to be untouched and pure; therefore, women could not have sex before marriage. The sea breeze highlights the looseness of her golden hair as she rides the wave into the shore, and the countless white and soft pink flowers that flutter with the ocean breeze add to the overall sense of beauty in this picture (Britannica). Venus is an ideal woman who captures Renaissance themes of birth and beauty.

Encyclopedia Britannica. Renaissance Art. <
Encyclopedia Britannica. Sandro Botecelli. <>
Birth of Venus (Bottecelli). <>


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