Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, 1482.
The simple composition enhances the sacredness of the figure. A miraculous event has just taken place, the sea foam, fertilized by the seed of Uranus, has generated a new goddess and she now manifests herself to the world.
On the left corner are Zefiro and Aura, a fresh and fertile wind that lets itself be embraced by a warm and enveloping one.
The motion that starts from these two figures is manifested in the subtle ripples of the waves and in the vortex of flowers that surrounds them.
On the right, on the jagged coast of the island, spring time is coming.
Her light dress, quilted with cornflowers, is tightened at the waist by a branch of rose. The red cloak that gives to the goddess is decorated with primroses and myrtle branches and is inflated by the effect of the breath coming from the opposite side.
The goddess appears in all her grace. It is a full figure, in the center of the painting, naked, with ivory skin and body crossed by shadows just mentioned. In balance it is placed on the edge of a shell that leads to the landing on the island of Cyprus.
Sandro Botticelli (Florence 1 March 1445 – Florence, 17 May 1510)
Sandro Botticelli was born in Florence on March 1, 1445, on the eve of the imminent Renaissance explosion of the city which, over the next thirty years, will see, among other things, over thirty villas and palaces, among which the great one of the Strozzi; Botticelli immediately reveals his talent in painting, drawing on the intense excitement that one breathes and feels in the city of the Medici.Of his childhood and adolescence there are few and fragmented news, while we know that around the age of twenty-five he is already an appreciated artist and he keeps some students with him, among them Filippino Lippi: the presence of the latter has suggested that probably Botticelli was in turn a pupil of Filippino’s father, Filippo Lippi, also because of the surprising affinity of style that emerged between the two. He is also a pupil of Verrocchio, whose workshop is frequented by Leonardo. These are the various “Madonnas” of these years.
From 1475 he fully embraces the humanistic ideas of Lorenzo de ‘Medici reverberating the harmony of composition and the simplicity of color in the “Primavera”, in the “Birth of Venus”, in “Venus and Mars”, in the “Pala di San Barnaba”, together with the frescoes that, between 1481 and 1482, he painted in the Sistine Chapel, in Rome – which in these years lived an architectural growth even greater than that of Florence – together with Perugino, Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli.
In his mature age there is a change in him: the veiled harmony of melancholy that has so far distinguished him is transformed into a dramatic, restless suffering, in a sort of search for mystic intensity. At this stage belong the one hundred engravings illustrating the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. In this transformation is probably influenced by the ideas of Savonarola, but it should not be forgotten that, with the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent in 1492, Florence knows the advent of Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raffaello who bring new impetus and new ideas to painting, making obsolete his Humanism.
Botticelli lives thus, shelved and in poverty, his last years until his death in Florence, May 17, 1510, at the age of 65.
The greatness of Botticelli is all in the original style that is revealed in an innovative, almost dreamlike aesthetic sense. His works have been contested all over the world: in London are kept some of his “Madonnas”, the “Assumption”, the “Nativity”, the “Adoration of the Magi”, “Venus and Mars”; in Paris other “Madonnas”, as well as in Vienna and Milan; in the Lombard capital there is also the “Deposition”; his stories of San Zenobi are scattered between London, New York, Dresden; in Washington there is the “Madonna with Child and two Angels”, a sort of integration of the version with only one angel kept in Ajaccio, France; in the Neapolitan Museum of Capodimonte we find the “Madonna with Child and Angels”; in Rome, Pallavicini collection, there is the “Derelitta”, while, in the aforementioned Sistine Chapel, the “Burning Bush”, the “Hunt of the Midianites”, the “Punishment of Core”, “Datan” and “Abiron”; the “Purification of the leper”, with the “Temptation of Jesus”.
The bulk of his artistic legacy, however, is in Florence, in the Uffizi Palace, where are found “History of Judith”, “Madonna with Child and Angels” of clear Pollaiolian influence, the “Madonna of the Magnificat”, the “Annunciation”, the “Adoration of the Magi” with the self-portrait of Botticelli, the “Vision of St. Augustine”, the “Allegory of the Spring” and the “Birth of Venus”, as well as the “Enthroned Madonna with Angels and Saints” and the “Coronation”, which can be found at the Accademia Gallery. His production went well beyond the works mentioned, also counting many famous portraits.