“The Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli depicts the goddess Venus emerging from the sea after her birth fully-grown. Venus is the Roman goddess of love, beauty, desire, fertility, prosperity and victory. In mythology, she was the mother of the Roman people through her son, Aeneas, who survived the fall of Troy and fled to Italy. Venus was central to many religious festivals and revered in Roman religion.
The Romans adopted Venus from the myths of her Greek counterpart Aphrodite for their art and literature. In the later classical tradition of the West, Venus becomes one of the most popular figures of Greco-Roman mythology as the embodiment of love and sexuality.
In Botticelli’s masterpiece the newly-born goddess, Venus stands nude in a giant scallop shell. On the left, Zephyr the god of high winds, and Aura, the personification of a light breeze are blowing Venus towards the shore. Their wind is also blowing Venus’s hair and the clothes and hair of the other figures to the right. At the right, is the Hora of Spring, one of the Greek goddesses of the seasons, holding out a rich cloak to cover Venus when she reaches the shore. Her landing spot represents either Cythera or Cyprus, both Mediterranean islands regarded by the Greeks as territories of Venus.
There are many competing interpretations by art historians about the themes and symbolism in this painting, and there are also alternative identifications for the two secondary female figures in this composition. However, the primary appeal of this art is the visual beauty of the masterpiece and not the debate about the symbolism in the composition. The symbolism adds to the mystery and allure of this painting.
Botticelli was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance who belonged to the Florentine School under the patronage of Lorenzo de’ Medici. His mythological masterpieces are his best-known works today. However, he painted a wide range of religious subjects and portraits. He and his workshop were especially known for their many beautiful Madonna and Child paintings. He lived all his life in the same neighbourhood of Florence, and his only significant time elsewhere was the few months he spent painting in Pisa in 1474 and his work at the Sistine Chapel in Rome in 1481–82.
- Title: The Birth of Venus
- Italian: Nascita di Venere
- Artist: Sandro Botticelli
- Year: 1485
- Dimensions Length: 278.5 cm (109.6 in). Height: 172.5 cm (67.9 in).
- Museum: Uffizi Gallery
Artist Essential Facts:
- Name: Sandro Botticelli
- Birth Name: Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi
- Born: c. 1445 – Florence, Republic of Florence, (now Italy)
- Died: May 17, 1510 (aged c. 64) – Florence, Republic of Florence
- Nationality: Italian
- Movement: Italian Renaissance
- Notable works:
“There are three classes of people: Those who see. Those who see when they are shown. Those who do not see.” Leonardo da Vinci
Photo Credit: Sandro Botticelli [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons