Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus (Nascita di Venere) 1486
Aside from being very beautiful, Botticelli’s Venus can also be appreciated for its deeper significances.
Firstly, the Italian Renaissance was a time of very religious artistic work. The Medici family and the Catholic Church combined created a high demand for religious pieces. Depending on its interpreter, Venus can very much be viewed as having religious influences. The characters are somewhat heavenly, and with many paintings of the time depicting the Virgin Mary, it was not out of the question for this painting to possibly represent Her.
Secondly, and on the flip side of that, Venus was a mythological character. Such ideas were generally in conflict with the religious values of the time. According to mythology, Venus represents love and passion– these humanistic characteristics are very evident in Botticelli’s painting.
Thirdly, The Birth of Venus may also have had political significance. It is speculated that the female characters of the painting were modeled after Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci, to gain favor with the Medicis, two of whom are rumored to have been enamored with her (Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Birth_of_Venus_%28Botticelli%29).
It is also interesting, that in contrast to other paintings of the Italian Renaissance, Botticelli’s work here lacks the painstakingly realistic human proportions, and sought after depth and perception that was characteristic of the period.
Personally, the painting appeals to me out of its surreal beauty. The shell brings to mind mermaids, and the mysterious world that we on land are not a part of. The color palette is rich, but soft, unlike some of the dark, intense pieces of the Renaissance. Venus‘s whimsy and many possible interpretations make it impossible to grow tired of.