Paintings You Should Know: Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ (c.1486)

Botticelli The Birth of Venus 1486
Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, c.1486

Representing a definite break from the Christian themes of the Gothic period, Sandro Botticelli’s (1445-1510) painting depicts the goddess Venus springing fully formed – and stark naked – from the foam of the sea. She was the Roman goddess of sex, love, and fertility, so Freud would have fun with that one.

Although there are definite Gothic elements in the style of the painting, the subject matter, a Roman goddess (and the goddess of love at that), is pure Renaissance. The other characters are Zephyr, the god of the wind, carrying a nymph and blowing Venus ashore, and one of Venus’ attendant Horae, the minor goddesses of the seasons, holding a robe at the ready.

The painting was commissioned by the powerful Italian Medici family and today is held at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It is painted in tempera on canvas and measures an impressive 172.5cm by 278.9cm.

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