Sandro Botticelli
‘The Birth of Venus’

Jun 22, 2016

Key pieces series

This week Key Piece goes back to the 15th century with the emblematic The Birth of Venus by Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli.

1. The Birth of Venus was painted in a tempera technique around 1485 in Florence.
2. It is the first big scale painting created during the Renaissance measuring 1,75 x 2,18 m.
3. It is an allegory of Venus, the Goddess of Beauty, coming out of the water.
4. Venus is surrounded by Zephyr, the mild west wind blowing on her as well as the four elements, earth, water, air and fire.
5. The myth of The Birth of Venus is related to Hesiod in his Theogony.
6. The model of the Venus is Simonetta Vespucci, the mistress of Florentine political leader Giuliano de Medici, who was elected the most beautiful woman of her era.
7. The posture of the Venus recalls the Venus de Medici, a classical sculpture from the Antiquity belonging to the Medici House.
8. It is one of the first reintroduction of nude depiction within the religious panorama of the Renaissance and to avoid censure Botticelli enveloped the Venus’s breast with her hair.
9. The painting was acquired by the Medici House and was first displayed at the Castello of Pierfrancesco de Medici before joining the Uffizi in Firenze, place where it can still be admired today.
10. The Venus of Botticelli has been celebrated many times in contemporary culture. It is namely represented on the Italian 10 euro cents, was cited in Arthur Rimbaud’s poetry and was the main inspiration for Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP album cover.

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Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, Tempera on canvas, 1485.

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Sandro Botticelli, Detail of The Birth of Venus, Tempera on canvas, 1485.