Thursday, June 30, 2016

Happy Birthday, Venus

There are a mess of things that make The Birth of Venus an incredibly special work of art. In the fifteenth century, painting on wood was "all the rage," so The Birth of Venus, commissioned by none other than the Medici family, is known as the first example of a painting on canvas in Tuscany. It is also one of the first nude paintings of it's time & possibly wasn't made public until 50 years after it was painted because it hung in place above a married couple's bed. The whole work is inspired by Homer's writings & a poem by Agnolo Poliziano, the greatest Neoplatonic poet of the Medici court. 

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli is not only an incredible masterpiece in itself but also a frame chalked full of symbolism, the floral symbolism being my favorite. In the meadow behind Venus & the other characters, one can vaguely see violets, which are the symbol of modesty. This really plays up the idea of Venus' preservation as she covers her body with her hands. In the seas behind her, one can again see flowers but this time pink roses. Pink roses are the classic symbol of love, appropriate for the Goddess of Love. If I had to guess, the tree in the painting would be a myrtle because one of the symbols of Venus is myrtle. One of the reasons for myrtle being her symbol is because myrtle is a powerful aphrodisiac, how fitting! 

The characters surrounding Venus also hold significance. The couple on the left are Zephyrus, god of the west wind & a nymph, Chloris. The woman on the shore is the Goddess of Spring, Pomona, welcoming her to the world.

I went into the Uffizi with little knowledge of the painting & was able to just bask in the beauty that was just Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. Without picking it apart & trying to understand the symbolism, I was able to just see it as a piece of art work & it really is something. Venus' eyes seem to look at you, but also right through you & past you. Everything in the painting points to her & you wouldn't think she was anything other than a goddess.


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