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The birth of Venus

The birth of Venus (1485) by Sandro Botticelli

The birth of Venus, a painting by an Italian artist called Alessandro di Vanni Filipepi
commonly referred to as Sandro,Botticelli and was one of the famous art works he painted
from 1482 to 1485in Florence,Italyand is 1.72m ×2.78m in size(Messbarger, R. (2013). The
birth of Venus is a mythological history painting from the Greek and roman era during the
renaissance period in Europe which was spearheaded by wealthy families. For his cousin’s
wedding, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de medici, a member of the Medici dynasty from
Florence, commissioned this painting as a wedding gift(Messbarger, R. (2013).


The painting the birth of Venus is a spectacular art showcasing a mythological art fit
for country villa symbolizing the beauty. In the centre of the artwork, a lady emerges from a
shell, naked, and attempts to conceal her breasts and genitals with her hair as she approaches
the ground, realizing her nakedness.

A detail of Venus from Botticelli`s The birth of Venus

When it comes to the figure’s pose and weight distribution in relation to the horizontal
plumb line, the treatment is heavily influenced by Gothic art. She is also not standing but
rather swaying in mid-air (Barry, M. P. (2020). Her shoulders are also forming architecture to
her torso in the antique nude the lady is identified as Venus from the many mythological
poems like Homer. She was the goddess of love associated with beauty, prosperity and sex
just to mention a few wasformed from sea foam after her father Uranus the god of the sky
was overthrown by and castrated by his son and his genitals were threw to the sea where they


mixed with sea foam to produce Venus hence was born fully grown hence the sea was her
mother and as a result she was naked.
In renaissance period, nakedness was said to be a sign of purity and her nudity
symbolized that she was a goddess with a sacred kind of love other than the earthly
sexualized kind of love (Kay, S. (1997). To her right, there are two figures a man and a
woman in the air blowing towards her. In the minds of many people, this figure represents
Zephyr, the Greek god who governs the west winds linked with spring’s arrival. Aura, which
translates to “breeze” or “chloris,” is Zephyr’s companion. In the spring, his wife is a nymph
with a flower-patterned robe to cover her. Her husband is another female Venus who is
waiting for her at the beach (Messbarger, R. (2013). She is identified as Hora the goddess of
seasons judging from the floral patterns on her dress.
An oil painting of the birth of Venus was popular at the period for use in the
decoration of noble homes (Kay, S. (1997).). When painting with tempera, Botticelli mixed
color pigments with a water-soluble medium and an egg yolk binding media, which was most
often employed in conjunction with egg yolk. He drew his figures with the tip of his brush,
just like a pen (Messbarger, R. (2013). Ultramarine from lapis, copper resonate, azurite,
ochre, red lake, and white lead were all employed by Botticelli. Ochre, white, cinnabar, and
red lake were used to create the skin tones, which were then painstakingly overlaid with
minute brushstrokes.
Botticelli used dark outlines in the birth of Venus to show the lack of depth in the
painting thus showing the different dimensions in the painting. The light especially the one
appearing behind the two figures to the left and Venus also contrast the dark outlines to bring
out the beauty and skin tone of Venus (Messbarger, R. (2013). The dark horizon in the
picture and the figures has no shadows which add to the flatness of the composition. There


are elements suggesting movement where in the ocean there are waves which appear smaller
when in the ocean but they are more clearly visible as they approach the shore.

Detail of hora holding outer clock for Venus from The birth of Venus.

The green hills and small scattered trees in the fare background create depth in the
painting Lines are used to bring out show the three dimensions and dynamics in the painting
as well as the flowing lines as shown by Venuses’ hair and cloak held by Hera as well as the
flowers falling to the ground show the direction by which the wind is blowing to. The neck,
arms and hair of Venus are out of the ordinary bring more radiance to her beauty as almost
another worldly figure that has been given life. Unlike all other artists at that time,
Botticelli’s art used to seem as if the objects were floating. He used lighter colors and


anatomical structures which turn out to be more appealing to sensory pleasure and aesthetics
rather than the idea of staying true to nature.
There are two poems believed to have been the source of inspiration to Botticelli are
the Homeric hymn to Aphrodite that was from a Florentine manuscript consisting of
humanistic ideas educated in Lorenzo way before it was printed in 1488 drawing its origin
from the Greek culture . The painting is also said to have gotten its reputation from the poem
Stanze per la gostra by the renaissance scholar Angelo Poliziano who was a friend to Lorenzo
di Medici. Botticelli uses Politian’s vivid description in the poem to make the image more
realistic, accurate. The painting is a combination of both poems where it is in sync with every
aspect of the Homeric hymn except where Venus covers her breast with the left hand other
than her right in the painting and she also holds her hair to her instead of holding it with her
feet. There is also a clear evidence of Poliziano’s interference where he advices Botticelli to
tally with tradition seen from the garments they used which were popular at that time and also
the hair style Venus has was very popular with the ladies at that time.
These renaissance painting changed people’s perception to the female body upholding
its purity, beauty and it actually became one of the pillars of western historical cannons
celebrated to date. It was seen as a sign of physical love as per the great Greek philosopher
Plato and her physical beauty would be a reminder of divine love this humanistic movement
was considered pagan compared to traditional religious subject matters.
If you look at the time period in which this artwork was created, you’ll notice that the
period was also marked by cultural awakening ideas, which led to a Christian interpretation
of scripture where Jesus was replaced by a goddess named Venus during baptism and his
female companion was replaced by a god of the wind. Also, Hora of spring, who holds the
cloak that would cover Venus, is supposed to be John the Baptist’s replacement. The fabric
represents the role of baptism that John the Baptist initially baptized Jesus before he began


his ministry, as Hora waits for Venus to be covered by the cloak. In addition to being born in
the sea, Venus is often seen as a symbol of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is also known as a
“star of the sea,” a reference to Venus’ birthplace in the sea.
The painting is also perceived to have been made in honor of the head of the Medici
family where it is believed that Venus was made to look like Simonetta the wife to the
Florentine merchant and is believed to be born in a town called Porto venere located in Italy.


Works Cited
Barry, M. P. (2020). Lesson 16: What Shocks in 1863.
Kay, S. (1997). The Birth of Venus in the Roman de la Rose. Exemplaria, 9(1), 7-37.
Messbarger, R. (2013). The re-birth of Venus in Florence’s Royal Museum of physics and
natural history. Journal of the History of Collections, 25(2), 195-215.

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