Sandra Botticelli

Sandra Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus (circa roughly 1490) was incredibly large painting, 184.5 x 285.5 feet, with the figure of Venus being almost life size. The piece is inspired by the mythology of Venus’ creation: the god Zeus is ordered by his mother Gaea to castrate his brother the Titan Uranus. Uranus dies and as his genitals hit the sea and mixed with the foam, Venus was born. In the painting itself, Zephyr (the Western Wind) and Chloris (or Flora, the goddess of flowers) symbolize spiritual passions and are both helping to usher Venus to the shore by blowing a wind. Hora, the summer Goddess is welcoming Venus with a gorgeous cloak. When Venus arrives upon the island of Cyprus, a rosebush had blossomed, hence the use of the roses in the wind.

The painting was commissioned in Florence by the Medici family – Lorenzo de Medici to be specific, for a family member’s wedding. Evidence of this can be seen in the painting by the use of the orange tree’s, groves of which the Medici were known to have. The figure of Venus herself is done in a very classical style, covering her body modestly similar to the Venus Medici ( Venus is very stylized, with rather elongated limbs which differs from much of the work of other artist’s like da Vinci or Michelangelo, who had a very realistic interpretation of the human figure. Some believe Venus’ elongated form and limbs are a precursor to the mannerist style, however, I myself maintain that the painting is very humanistic in style. Venus’s figure is very free flowing and natural-looking, despite the elongation and the focus on the beauty of Venus’ nude body and the story behind the painting are the defining aspects of it’s humanistic nature. Added on top of all of this, the Birth of Venus is a very pagan story, and though it is telling the story of a divine and God-inspired beauty, it is not a painting that the church would have approved of. In fact, it is highly surprising the Venus survived Savonarola’s Bonfire of Vanities, particularly considering we know of the Botticelli’s involvement in burning many of his own pieces.