Title: The Birth of Venus (La Nascita di Venere)
Author: Sandro Botticelli (Florence, Republic of Florence, 1445 – Florence, Republic of Florence, May 17, 1510 )
Genre: Mythological painting
Movement: Early Renaissance
Technique: Tempera on canvas
Dimension: 172,5 cm x 278,5 cm (height x width)
Location: The Uffizi Gallery, Florence
In Florence, there is one painting that leads to the discovery of a medical condition, Stendal Syndrome, in art history. What makes art so pretty it speeds up your heartbeat and causes you to faint or even have a heart attack?
In 2018, one art lover broke down and suffered a heart attack after seeing Botticelli’s the Birth of Venus, which we will discuss in a split second. So naturally, it got loads of reputation, and this incident introduced us to a syndrome that you might have never heard before. Stendal Syndrome! A medical condition affects people overwhelmed by looking at great works of art, particularly in Florence.
Let’s divulge all the essential and compelling details of Sandro Botticelli’s the Birth of Venus, waiting for us in Florence, where you can meet the genuine renaissance spirit!
IT IS SO APPEALING; IT ALMOST MAKES YOU FAINT!
Having a good day? Got anything planned for this afternoon? If not, come and join us; we are about to start our little trip to Italy. So we let ourselves to the warm breeze of the Mediterranean lands!
As we hurried on our way to get to the Uffizi Gallery, we found ourselves thinking about what makes great art great. Then, we entered the ornate room 10-14, filled with art pieces that could answer this question.
We have our eyes on one of the paintings that came out of Botticelli’s hands, who was born during the Florentine Renaissance’s golden ages. One calls us to come closer. Then, we are invigorated by our walk to the painting. And there it is! Before our very eyes, the Birth of Venus, a landmark of XV century Italian painting due to its intense meaning and symbolic references to antiquity!
The more you know the Birth of Venus, the weirder it gets. Even though it was truly seen, a deeper meaning would not reveal itself. Therefore, art critics still struggle to interpret it.
Is the Birth of Venus a bold depiction of a myth, or do all these interpretations lead it to become an intriguing treatise? Where do we find our answers? Could Venus have answers while floating on her half-shell?
Let’s find answers to these questions and get to know the Birth of Venus better by looking at its mythical story!
WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND THE BIRTH OF VENUS?
The swelling breath of Zephyrus conveyed Aphrodite, the fair with the golden wreath, emerging from the fertile foam on the waves of the turbulent sea.
The mythical story begins when Kronus, one of the six titans, wants revenge on his father, the God Uranus, who buried his brothers in the ground and wished to destroy him as well. So one night, Kronus castrated his father’s genitals with the scythe that Kronus’ mother Gaea gave him. Then, the severed genitals fell into the Mediterranean Sea, and the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, is born as a fully-grown woman from the union of the seeds that spread to the sea. Like its counterpart in Roman mythology, Venus represents the idealized version of the woman who came ashore above the waves.
The Birth of Venus is notably affected by Neoplatonic philosophy, which holds that there is a single supreme source of goodness in the universe from which all other things descend to which they can be reunited. Even though the Birth of Venus figures embody classical gods and goddesses, the scenes are absolute Renaissance inventions.
In terms of a philosophical interpretation, Venus impersonates beauty, and since beauty is the fact, the work becomes an allegory of truth entering the world. Or maybe it’s a straightforward celebration of love and an homage to feminine beauty. You can take your pick!
I do not mean to fill you up with its story. Shall we save room for its analysis?
THE BIRTH OF VENUS ANALYSIS
This incredible mythological composition illustrates the figure of the bare naked goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, Venus arising from the shell floating to Cyprus shore in the Birth of Venus painting.
The Birth of Venus Technique
In terms of the Birth of Venus technique is not incidental or the result of a spontaneous mediocre brushwork. By which I mean, the Birth of Venus is painted on canvas using a technique of thin Tempera, which is pretty unusual for its time. Besides, he uses this technique in his other paintings.
You can find the tempera technique in vast geography from ancient Egypt to India and the reigns of China. Tempera paints are usually prepared with pigments obtained from minerals or plants mixed with water-diluted egg yolk, giving the painting that looks of extraordinary transparency and bringing to mind the fresco’s pictorial quality. The painter should apply fine brush strokes carefully to create the form in the painting made with this technique.
Symbolism in the Birth of Venus
So, what can you see in the Birth of Venus? We are looking at this work of art; Venus tilts her head slightly. Yet, there is something otherworldly about her, especially the expression on her exquisite face. And, her wind-spin golden hair is suspended on the goddess’s right shoulder and surrounds the curve of her body can not resist gravity. While her right-hand covers one of her breasts, her left holds long skins of golden hair over her pubic area.
In addition, Venus, The goddess, has just been born as a fully-grown woman from the foam of the sea. Then, she settled on nautilus shells that have an excellent spinning vector at their twist.
To her left is the wind god, Zephyr’s body entwined with the body of Chloris. As you can notice, the lovely sway of Venus is due to Zephyr’s blow. Besides, Zephyr’s blast helps to move Venus on the sea.
Roses around the Zephyrus and Chloris, delicate pink roses tumble, each with golden hearth and gilded leaves. Known as the flower of Venus, the beautiful and fragrant rose is a symbol of love, with thorns that can cause pain and represent fertility.
To her right is a goddess be in charge of impeccable order in nature and mid-seasons, Horae carrying a flower scattered blanket to wrap Venus any minute.
There is an allegory also here. As soon as Venus sets foot on land, she will become worldly and lose her innocence. For this reason, she will need to be covered. You can see examples of symbolism here in Christian art also. We see the same situation in the painting of The Baptism of Christ.
NON-RELIGIOUS NUDE VENUS!
A linear perspective painting draws the viewer’s eyes to the focal point, clearly Venus. In her facial expression, Venus carries peacefulness, and her appearance is intended to be delicate and divine, unlike mostly her portrayals, which are erotic.
The Birth of Venus is the first non-religious nude since classical antiquity. We can encounter nudes in medieval art and as well as in renaissance art; they are mostly Adam and Eve, though. Therefore, it is an uncommon painting when you consider that there had not been any example before this painting came out to the world. Here we have a nearly life-size, nude femality. It might be the first depiction of an almost life-size mythological female nude.
BOTTICELLI IS ONE OF THE PIONEERS OF THE RENAISSANCE
While European art is fed from Christianity on a large scale and the life and teachings of Jesus, there is a rediscovery of the ancient world when it comes to the Renaissance. For this reason, during Renaissance, we begin to see elements belonging to the pre-Christian period, namely the pagan period, in the paintings. Moreover, Botticelli is one of the pioneers who brought these elements into his paintings. With his Birth of Venus and Primavera paintings, he takes his subject from mythology. Therefore, we can say that the Birth of Venus’s subject matter is pagan and the goddess of love.
WHO IS THE GIRL IN THE BIRTH OF VENUS?
Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci, also known as La Bella Simonetta, is the model painted as Venus by Boticelli. Simonetta was a noblewoman whose beauty became legendary in Florence from Genoa. The young woman’s presence lasted so striking and yet so fleeting in Florence. Tuberculosis might be the reason for her death. Yet, although she was dead, Botticelli kept on accomplishing his artworks by her inspiration. Botticelli’s Venus and Spring were painted about ten years after Simonetta’s death, and her beauty was bright and shining in Boticelli’s mind.
WHO COMMISSIONED THE BIRTH OF VENUS PAINTING?
The painting was most likely commissioned by a member of the wealthy Medici family, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici for his villa at Castello near Florence.
In Renaissance Italy, mythological scenes were usually commissioned to decorate wooden furniture such as wedding chests. On the other hand, religious images were created grander and used in churches, often as altarpieces. In creating the Birth of Venus, Botticelli broke with tradition, producing the first work on canvas to feature a mythological image comparable to a large-scale religious painting.
Despite all, the interpretations of this ineffable The Birt of Venus are various and diverse. Still, it’s a work of art that will be discussed and cherished as long as humans are on earth.
Hereby finishing with a poem that might be written based on Botticelli’s the Birth of Venus;
Look, look why shinePercy Bysshe Shelley
Those floating bubbles with such light divine?
They break, and from their mist a lily form
Rises from out the wave, in beauty warm.
The wave is by the blue-veined feet scarce press’d,
Her silky ringlets float about her breast,
Veiling its fairy loveliness, while her eye
Is soft and deep as the heaven is high.
The Beautiful is born; sea and earth
May well revere the hour of that mysterious birth.
Last but not least, if you are into art, we will have a blast seeing you here. I hope every art-related thing will find you; see you in our following review. ????✌
It might be a good idea to check on the Birth of Venus by writer Sarah Dunant ????