Artist's Name: Sandro Botticelli
Piece Name: Birth of Venus
Date: ca. 1400
Period: Italian Renaissance
Material: Tempera on canvass
Purpose: Commission work for Medici family
Inspired by a popular poem of the time, Botticelli created probably his most famous work for the Medici family. Botticelli depicts Venus after her birth from the sea foam being carried to Cyprus on a cockle shell. Zephyrus is shown as a beautiful couple propelling the shell using their breath. The nymph Pomona awaits Venus on the shore with a brocaded mantle. The garments undulate in the gentle gusts and flowers fall from the sky to the rippling water below. This was one of the first representations of a female nude to occur during the Renaissance, as Medieval sensibilities banned such depictions. But the attitudes of the Renaissance were more accommodating and the protection afforded Botticelli by his association with the Medici gave him confidence to create the piece. While his style seems to have ignored the scientific knowledge his contemporaries had gained, particularly in the areas of anatomy and perspective, Botticelli painted his figures with an elegance and delicateness not commonly seen, particularly in the detail of the hands and feet of the figures.
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