Zoom Into 'The Birth of Venus'

Get up close with Botticelli's famous depiction of the Goddess' birth from the Uffizi Gallery

By Google Arts & Culture

This universal icon of Western painting was probably painted around 1484 for the villa of Castello owned by Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de 'Medici. 

Rather than a birth, what we see is the goddess landing on the shore of her homeland, the island of Cyprus, or on Kithera. The theme can be traced back to Homer and to Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The Venus of the Uffizi is of the “Venus pudica” type, whose right breast is covered by her right hand and billowing long blond hair partially shrouds her body.

The goddess stands upright on a shell as she is driven towards the shore by the breeze of Zephyrus, a wind god, who is holding the nymph, Chloris. 

On the right is the Hora of springtime, who waits to greet Venus ashore with a cloak covered in pink flowers.

The seascape, stunning for its metaphysical tone and almost unreal quality, is illuminated by a very soft, delicate light. Like Botticelli’s other masterpiece, Pallas and the Centaur, the Birth of Venus is painted on canvas - fairly unusual for its time - using a technique of thin tempera, based on the use of diluted egg yolk, which lends itself particularly well to give the painting that aspect of extraordinary transparency, which brings to mind the pictorial quality of a fresco. 

The figure recalls classical sculpture and is very similar to the famous Medici Venus found in the Uffizi, which the artist certainly knew. The real meaning of this dreamlike vision is still under scholarly debate and investigation but is undoubtedly linked with the Neo-Platonic philosophy, widely cultivated in the Medici court. According to the interpretation by Ernst Gombrich, the work depicts the symbolic fusion of Spirit and Matter, the harmonious interaction of Idea and Nature. 

Nevertheless, the interpretations of this painting of extraordinary visual impact are numerous and diverse. It's a work of art which will be discussed and adored as long as there are humans on earth.

The birth of Venus (1483 - 1485) by Sandro BotticelliUffizi Gallery

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