Sandro Botticelli's Birth of Venus has undergone a resurgence of interest; a revival that hasn't been seen since Andy Warhol and Monty Python, except instead of eliciting new artists to imitate, the focus is very much on how to interpret this icon in the modern age.
dated interpretations to be believed? Like Plato's school of thought,
or should a new perspective now be given to its symbolism? Do we know
much more about the artist and the century in which it was painted?
ask these questions; it is not for me to answer. I am no historian of
art or student of, despite the intrigue some works stimulate. I see
only beauty: the way individual brush-strokes make up the entire
image, the way a face or figure has been caught or positioned, the
way colour has been used to produce rich, bold hues or pastel shades.
Occasionally, this is accompanied by a desire to learn more about a
certain piece or about its creator, but usually I'm content to look
and less concerned with what it might mean. I do not care to delve
deeper if in doing so it could destroy or alter my appreciation.
study art would certainly deepen my understanding, but it would
change the emotional impact. I like to dip in as the mood takes me
and not presuppose the objective of the work or the artist, so that
when I choose to learn I surface learn: use the resources at my
fingertips or glue my pupils to programmes scheduled fortuitously at
the same time my interest has been engaged. Lazy learning, but apt
for someone who doesn’t wish to critique or become an authority,
and who wants to form her own unbiased opinions.
we have to pull art apart? All art, but mostly paintings and
literature. That was precisely what put me off doing English Lit. as
an A Level or taking it up further on down the line. The idea of
reading selected classics, discussing their themes, and analysing
passages, as well as the writer's soul, would quite extinguish any
enjoyment I might actually get from just reading. And although I've
come to appreciate the visual arts rather late, I feel much the same
seldom want to guess the artist's motives, whatever cubism they are
said to belong to: impressionism, surrealism, pop art etc., because
I'm of the view there doesn't necessarily have to be any, or at least
not one that has to be critically appraised. It could have been the
fall of light at a certain time on a certain day or an observation
that suddenly took hold; it could have been in the likeness of and
staged with models, or commissioned by a patron. And though it's of
interest to note the historical or religious references, and compare
the results with that of their contemporaries, the overall technique
and effect can speak for itself.
too will vary depending on the school of thought, as well as
individual taste. Art is always evolving so that for example what was
once considered blasphemous might be less so today; what was once
declared an eyesore might now be seen as beauteous. We are always
reclassifying: updating ratings and value, and therefore modernising
our own attitudes to the rebirth of trends. Those that mimic do not
undermine the worth of the original – the artist or the work – as
the versions they produce can, in fact, do the opposite: pin the art
and artist firmly on the map and raise its status to icon.
is what is said, as I alluded to in the opening paragraph, of
of Venus: it's considered iconic. I don't disagree, but I do with
some of the fantastical interpretations which attempt to give it a
feminist spin, to empower women to see the beauty in their own
bodies, because I wouldn't have said this was a good example. Venus,
posed in full-fronted nudity, isn't strictly uncovered, and nor does
she, to me, exude the naked confidence we are told is essential. This
adult woman emerging from the sea is a modest Venus, not entirely
innocent of her nakedness, nor sure that she wants to be so admired.
Picture Credit: The Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli