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  • (piano jazz music)

  • - [Female Narrator] We're in probably the most

  • crowded gallery at the Uffizi

  • here in in Florence.

  • This is the room that contains Botticelli's

  • fabulously beautiful Birth of Venus.

  • - [Male Narrator] And you can hear the hub-bub around us.

  • But it's interesting that

  • the Birth of Venus is a painting

  • that we actually know very little about.

  • We don't know who it was painted for.

  • We don't know where it was originally intended to be seen,

  • the subject, a full length, nude female

  • is highly unusual especially for the 15th century.

  • - [Female Narrator] We do see nudes in medieval art

  • and even in renaissance art before this.

  • But the nudes are usually Adam and Eve.

  • - [Male Narrator] And beginning in the 15th century

  • artists do begin to experiment with introducing

  • heroic male nudity within a biblical context.

  • Think for instance of Donatello's David.

  • But here we have something exceptional.

  • This is an almost life size, full-length, female nude.

  • That is fully pagan in its subject matter.

  • - [Female Narrator] Pagan and undoubtedly

  • the Goddess of love.

  • Although the artists of the renaissance are looking back

  • to ancient Greek and Roman sculpture

  • many of which were nudes,

  • they've in the past transformed them into

  • a Christian biblical subject.

  • Here Venus remains Venus.

  • - [Male Narrator] In fact nudity in Christian art

  • was often an expression of something traumatic.

  • We see Christ almost nude on the cross.

  • Or we see the sinful being led into hell.

  • What makes this painting so exceptional

  • is that it is perhaps one of the first

  • almost life size representations of a female nude

  • that is fully mythological in its subject matter.

  • - [Female Narrator] She covers her body very much the way

  • Eve covered hers when she was expelled

  • from the Garden of Eden

  • but here we have a gesture of modesty.

  • Not one of shame.

  • Venus floats on a seashell.

  • She's born from the sea.

  • - [Male Narrator] And because

  • we're talking about classical mythology

  • she can be born fully grown.

  • - [Female Narrator] And here she is blown

  • by the west wind Zephr and we see his body

  • entwined with the body of Chloris.

  • - [Male Narrator] On the right we see an attendant

  • who is ready to wrap the newborn goddess.

  • Although all of these figure clearly represent

  • Botticelli's incredibly sophisticated understanding

  • of the human body.

  • Look at the wonderful sway of Venus.

  • Or the complex intertwining of the two figures on the left.

  • And despite the fact that we see a very deep space

  • the canvas feels flat.

  • And this is the result of a number of things.

  • For one thing, the emphasis on pattern.

  • Botticelli has strewn the left side of the canvas

  • with flowers which are very close to the foreground.

  • On the right side we have flowers again but now,

  • they're part of the dress worn by the attendant

  • and part of the cloth that she carries.

  • The rhythmic alteration of light and dark

  • in the scallop shell

  • seems to push the back forward.

  • And even the little v's that refer to the waves of the sea

  • create a sense of two dimensionality.

  • So that the entire canvas,

  • although depicting a deep space

  • is also so heavily patterned

  • that it reminds us of its own two dimensionality.

  • - [Female Narrator] And the figures all

  • occupy the same plane.

  • That is one figure isn't behind another

  • or deeper in space than another

  • and so it does read very flatly

  • but I would also argue that although Botticelli does have

  • an understanding of human anatomy

  • and we can see that clearly in the body of Venus

  • or in the figure of the west wind,

  • or the way that we see the drapery

  • wrapping around the figure of the nymph on the right

  • the figures are weightless,

  • they don't stand firmly on the ground

  • the way that often expect

  • renaissance figures to stand

  • and the figure of Venus forms this serpentine shape

  • that actually I think would be an impossible to stand.

  • - [Male Narrator] Certainly when you're surfing to shore

  • on a seashell.

  • Look for example,

  • the way that the artist has highlighted her golden hair

  • with actual lines of gold.

  • Gold that also appears in the foliage to the upper right

  • and can be seen in the trunks of the trees

  • that form the grove at the right.

  • - [Female Narrator] Venus tilts her head slightly,

  • her hair blows in the wind

  • and surround the curve of her body

  • and is brought down in front of her

  • to cover her modestly.

  • Although there may be meaning behind this painting

  • that connects classical mythology to certain Christian ideas

  • via a philosophy called Neoplatonism,

  • what we're looking at essentially

  • is still a beautiful and erotic image.

  • This is a celebration of both beauty and of love.

  • And we can think about that in both a secular context

  • and a Christian one.

  • (piano jazz outro)

(piano jazz music)

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A celebration of beauty and love: Botticelli's Birth of Venus

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    Caurora posted on 2019/11/10
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