Shadowing Botticellis Beauty
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This important and unprecedented exhibition covers the entire career of the Florentine master with over 40 exceptional masterpieces gathered from major museums around the world. Sandro Botticelli was one of the leading painters of the Florentine Renaissance who developed a highly personal style characterized by elegant execution, sense of melancholy and strong emphasis on line.
This monograph presents a selection of Botticelli's paintings and drawings, including extraordinary masterpieces such as the Mystic Nativity, St. Help Centre. My Wishlist Sign In Join. Be the first to write a review. Sorry, the book that you are looking for is not available right now. Books with a similar title. Botticelli Phaidon Classics. In Stock. Botticelli Heroines and Heroes. Golden Tarot of Botticelli Tarot Cards. She is not standing but floating.
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Her shoulders, for example, instead of forming a sort of architrave to her torso, as in the antique nude, run down into her arms in the same unbroken stream of movement as her floating hair. Venus' body is anatomically improbable, with elongated neck and torso. Her pose is impossible: although she stands in a classical contrapposto stance, her weight is shifted too far over the left leg for the pose to be held. The proportions and poses of the winds to the left do not quite make sense, and none of the figures cast shadows.
Ignoring the size and positioning of the wings and limbs of the flying pair on the left, which bother some other critics, Kenneth Clark calls them:. Their bodies, by an endless intricacy of embrace, sustain the current of movement, which finally flickers down their legs and is dispersed like an electric charge. Botticelli's art was never fully committed to naturalism; in comparison to his contemporary Domenico Ghirlandaio , Botticelli seldom gave weight and volume to his figures and rarely used a deep perspectival space.
The laurel trees and the grass below them are green with gold highlights, most of the waves regular patterns, and the landscape seems out of scale with the figures. It has long been suggested that Botticelli was commissioned to paint the work by the Medici family of Florence, perhaps by Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici — a major patron of Botticelli, under the influence of his cousin Lorenzo de' Medici , "il Magnifico".
This was first suggested by Herbert Horne in his monograph of , the first major modern work on Botticelli, and long followed by most writers, but more recently has been widely doubted, though it is still accepted by some. Various interpretations of the painting rely on this origin for its meaning. Although relations were perhaps always rather tense between the Magnifico and his young cousins and wards, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco and his brother Giovanni di Pierfrancesco de' Medici , it may have been politic to commission a work that glorified the older Lorenzo, as some interpretations have it.
There may be a deliberate ambiguity as to which Lorenzo was intended to be evoked. In later years hostility between the two branches of the family became overt. Horne believed that the painting was commissioned soon after the purchase in of the Villa di Castello , a country house outside Florence, by Lorenzo and Giovanni, to decorate their new house, which they were rebuilding. This was the year after their father died at the age of 46, leaving the young boys wards of their cousin Lorenzo il Magnifico, of the senior branch of the Medici family and de facto ruler of Florence.
In Vasari was himself painting in the villa, but he very possibly visited it before that. But in it emerged that, unlike the Primavera , the Birth is not in the inventory, apparently complete, made in of the works of art belonging to Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco's branch of the family. Ronald Lightbown concludes that it only came to be owned by the Medici after that. The inventory was only published in , and made many previous assumptions invalid. Horne dated the work at some point after the purchase of the villa in and before Botticelli's departure for Rome to join the painting of the Sistine Chapel in Recent scholars prefer a date of around —86 on grounds of the work's place in the development of Botticelli's style.
The Primavera is now usually dated earlier, after Botticelli's return from Rome in and perhaps around the time of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco's wedding in July ,  but by some still before Botticelli's departure. Whenever the two paintings were united at Castello, they have remained together ever since. They stayed in Castello until , when they were transferred to the Uffizi. For some years until they were kept in the Galleria dell'Accademia , another government museum in Florence. Although there are ancient and modern texts that are relevant, no single text provides the precise imagery of the painting, which has led scholars to propose many sources and interpretations.
Botticelli represented the Neoplatonic idea of divine love in the form of a nude Venus. For Plato — and so for the members of the Florentine Platonic Academy — Venus had two aspects: she was an earthly goddess who aroused humans to physical love or she was a heavenly goddess who inspired intellectual love in them. Plato further argued that contemplation of physical beauty allowed the mind to better understand spiritual beauty. So, looking at Venus, the most beautiful of goddesses, might at first raise a physical response in viewers which then lifted their minds towards the godly.
The composition, with a central nude figure, and one to the side with an arm raised above the head of the first, and winged beings in attendance, would have reminded its Renaissance viewers of the traditional iconography of the Baptism of Christ , marking the start of his ministry on earth. In a similar way, the scene shows here marks the start of Venus's ministry of love, whether in a simple sense, or the expanded meaning of Renaissance Neoplatonism. More recently, questions have arisen about Neoplatonism as the dominant intellectual system of late 15th-century Florence,  and scholars have indicated that there might be other ways to interpret Botticelli's mythological paintings.
In particular, both Primavera and Birth of Venus have been seen as wedding paintings that suggest appropriate behaviors for brides and grooms. The laurel trees at right and laurel wreath worn by the Hora are punning references to the name "Lorenzo", though it is uncertain whether Lorenzo il Magnifico , the effective ruler of Florence, or his young cousin Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco is meant. In the same way the flowers in the air around Zephyr and on the textiles worn and carried by the Hora evoke the name of Florence.
The closest precedent for the scene is generally agreed to be in one of the early ancient Greek Homeric Hymns , published in Florence in by the Greek refugee Demetrios Chalkokondyles :. This poem was probably already known to Botticelli's Florentine contemporary, and Lorenzo di Medici 's court poet, Angelo Poliziano. The iconography of The Birth of Venus is similar to a description of a relief of the event in Poliziano's poem the Stanze per la giostra , commemorating a Medici joust in , which may also have influenced Botticelli, although there are many differences.
For example Poliziano talks of multiple Horae and zephyrs.
Venus Eyeshadow Palette
Another poem by Politian speaks of Zephyr causing flowers to bloom, and spreading their scent over the land, which probably explains the roses he blows along with him in the painting. Having a large standing female nude as the central focus was unprecedented in post-classical Western painting, and certainly drew on the classical sculptures which were coming to light in this period, especially in Rome, where Botticelli had spent —82 working on the walls of the Sistine Chapel.
What became a famous example of this type is the Venus de' Medici , a marble sculpture that was in a Medici collection in Rome by , which Botticelli may have had opportunity to study the date it was found is unclear. The painter and the humanist scholars who probably advised him would have recalled that Pliny the Elder had mentioned a lost masterpiece of the celebrated ancient Greek painter, Apelles , representing Venus Anadyomene Venus Rising from the Sea. According to Pliny, Alexander the Great offered his mistress, Pankaspe, as the model for the nude Venus and later, realizing that Apelles had fallen in love with the girl, gave her to the artist in a gesture of extreme magnanimity.
Pliny went on to note that Apelles' painting of Pankaspe as Venus was later "dedicated by Augustus in the shrine of his father Caesar. This picture decayed from age and rottenness, and Nero Pliny also noted a second painting by Apelles of Venus "superior even to his earlier one," that had been begun by artist but left unfinished. The Roman images in various media showing the new-born Venus in a giant shell may well be crude derivative versions of these paintings.
Botticelli could not have seen the frescos unearthed later in Pompeii , but may well have seen small versions of the motif in terracotta or engraved gems. The "House of Venus" in Pompeii has a life-size fresco of Venus lying in the shell, also seen in other works; in most other images she stands with her hands on her hair, wringing the water from it, with or without a shell.
The two-dimensionality of this painting may be a deliberate attempt to evoke the style of ancient Greek vase painting or frescos on the walls of Etruscan tombs ,  the only types of ancient painting known to Botticelli. Greco-Roman Venus Anadyomene. Roman glass cameo Venus Anadyomene.
Another interpretation of the Birth of Venus is provided here by its author, Charles R. This interpretation takes much that is generally agreed, but Mack goes on to explain the painting as an allegory extolling the virtues of Lorenzo de' Medici. Mack sees the scene as inspired by both the Homeric Hymn and the ancient paintings. But something more than a rediscovered Homeric hymn was likely in the mind of the Medici family member who commissioned this painting from Botticelli. Once again, Botticelli, in his version of the Birth of Venus, might be seen as completing the task begun by his ancient predecessor Apelles, even surpassing him.
Giving added support to this interpretation of Botticelli as a born-again Apelles is the fact that that very claim was voiced in by Ugolino Verino in a poem entitled "On Giving Praise to the History of Florence. While Botticelli might well have been celebrated as a revivified Apelles, his Birth of Venus also testified to the special nature of Florence's chief citizen, Lorenzo de' Medici.
Although it now seems that the painting was executed for another member of the Medici family, it likely was intended to celebrate and flatter its head, Lorenzo de' Medici. Tradition associates the image of Venus in Botticelli's painting with the famous beauty Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci , of whom popular legend claims both Lorenzo and his younger brother, Giuliano , were great admirers.
Simonetta was possibly born in the Ligurian seaside town of Portovenere 'the port of Venus'.
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Thus, in Botticelli's interpretation, Pankaspe the ancient living prototype of Simonetta , the mistress of Alexander the Great the Laurentian predecessor , becomes the lovely model for the lost Venus executed by the famous Greek painter Apelles reborn through the recreative talents of Botticelli , which ended up in Rome, installed by Emperor Augustus in the temple dedicated to Florence's supposed founder Julius Caesar. In the case of Botticelli's Birth of Venus , the suggested references to Lorenzo, supported by other internal indicators such as the stand of laurel bushes at the right, would have been just the sort of thing erudite Florentine humanists would have appreciated.
Accordingly, by overt implication, Lorenzo becomes the new Alexander the Great with an implied link to both Augustus, the first Roman emperor, and even to Florence's legendary founder, Caesar himself. Lorenzo, furthermore, is not only magnificent but, as was Alexander in Pliny's story, also magnanimous, as well. Ultimately, these readings of the Birth of Venus flatter not only the Medici and Botticelli but all of Florence, home to the worthy successors to some of the greatest figures of antiquity, both in governance and in the arts.
These essentially pagan readings of Botticelli's Birth of Venus should not exclude a more purely Christian one, which may be derived from the Neoplatonic reading of the painting indicated above. Viewed from a religious standpoint, the nudity of Venus suggests that of Eve before the Fall as well as the pure love of Paradise.