Taste of culture

Learn and enjoy: art, music and words enable us to discover where we come from, so we can decide where we’re going.

The Birth of Venus

Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Sandro Botticelli (1482-1486)

Considered the quintessential masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance, it’s also one of Sandro Botticelli’s most famous works. The painting depicts the moment the goddess Venus arrives at the shore of the island of Cythera or Paphos in Cyprus.

Sandro Botticelli, Florence, Italy – 1445-1510. he artist had his own personal style characterised by linear elegance. We should understand his interest in the goddess of beauty as a Renaissance attempt to revive Christianity through pagan ideas and Platonic philosophy.

1. Return to Gothic aestheticism

Botticelli’s style is not realist like his Florentine contemporaries. With this return to Gothic aestheticism the artist intended to codify a mystical, spiritual sense by including the allegories of the profane and the sacred, or of esoterism and astrology, that were so admired by the refined Renaissance promotors of humanist culture, such as the Medici.

2. A nod to the Florentine nobility

This depiction of Venus is not just any image of the goddess, but corresponds to the Venus Anadyomene “Venus Rising from the Sea”. This moment was described by the Roman historian Pliny the Elder in Naturalis Historiae; quite a gesture by Botticelli of complicity with the enlightened nobility of Florence, who were known to read the classic authors.

3. Symbol of spring and fertility

The embracing figures represent the married couple of the nymph Chloris or Flora and Zephyrus, the god of the west wind. They are the bringers of spring and renewed fertility of the earth, hence the flowers and the roses that are carried by the breeze that Zephyrus blows to help Venus arrive to the shore. If you look closely you can see how the roses match the flowered tunic of the figure on the right.

4. The nymphs and the myrtle

The Hours or nymphs were the daughters of Zeus and Themis; the figure on the right represents the Hour of spring and she wears a garland made of myrtle which, not by chance, is the sacred plant of Venus and the symbol of eternal love.

5. Flos mali Medici

The Latin name of the orange flower was Flos mali Medici. So orange boom not only alludes to the splendour of spring, but also to the Medici family; as you might expect, the blossoming orange tree is the is family emblem.

6. The queen of beauty

This so delicate a face could be a posthumous portrait of the wife of Marco Vespucci, Simonetta Vespucci, who died of pneumonia in 1476 aged 22. Among the nobility of Florence, Simonetta was known as the queen of beauty.

You can find further information on the Galleria degli Uffizi website.