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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Memories of Italy: The Birth of Venus, Uffizi Gallery

Catherine Tsounis
Catherine Tsounis
Contributing Editor The copyrights for these articles are owned by the Hellenic News of America. They may not be redistributed without the permission of the owner. The opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Hellenic News of America and its representatives.

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Aphrodite (or Venus to the Romans) was born near Paphos, Cyprus. The Greek myth says the Goddess of love and beauty was born from the white foam of the sea. A complicated story.

The Birth of Venus is a painting by the Italian artist Sandro Botticelli, made in the mid-1480s. It shows the goddess Venus arriving at the shore after her birth, as a grown. She is pushed to the shores of Cyprus by the breath of Zephyrus, the god of the west wind. Zephyrus embraces the nymph Chloris. The girl about to cover Venus with a flowery mantle is thought to be one of the Hours. They were the mythological handmaidens of Venus, who had power over the seasons. The painting is in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.

I was at the Uffizi before the 2020 Pandemic. I found “The Birth of Venus” significant because it was a masterpiece of the Renaissance or “Rebirth of Greek Learning in the West”. Botticelli “Venus” from classical mythology had not been seen in the West since classical antiquity (8th century BC to the 6th century AD). The work was funded by the Medici family. This is an icon of the Renaissance that outlived the Medici’s and their religious and political opponents. The Birth of Venus is the first example in Tuscany of a painting on canvas.

What is the meaning of the Birth of Venus? It is a symbol of physical and spiritual beauty. Classical culture, Olympian divinities and their mythologies were used to express humanistic values. The Neoplatonism philosophers believed contemplating Venus’ beauty is a way to elevate the human spirit and get closer to the divine.  Botticelli was overshadowed by Michelangelo and Leonardo. The painting was rediscovered in the 19th century.

My former Greek students from Paphos said “we are all inheritors of Aphrodite’s beauty.” Roots give a person a positive self-image. In the 1970’s, I bought a large marble statue of Venus in the seashell at the marble quarries of Amaroussio, Athens. It was created to be a lamp. The Birth of Venus as a lamp is in my living room. Seeing Sandro Botticelli’s painting in the Uffizi Gallery, before the 2020 Pandemic, conjured images of my youth and Cyprus.

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My former Greek students from Paphos said “we are all inheritors of Aphrodite’s beauty.” Roots give a person a positive self-image. In the 1970’s, I bought a large marble statue of Venus in the seashell at the marble quarries of Amaroussio, Athens. It was created to be a lamp. The Birth of Venus as a lamp is in my living room. Seeing Sandro Botticelli’s painting in the Uffizi Gallery, before the 2020 Pandemic, conjured images of my youth and Cyprus. Whether you liked them or not, the Medici Family gave us a gift to mankind: Florence. Her Greek/Roman civilization remains. Other religious and political persons have come and gone. Florence remains. She will survive the 2020 Pandemic, to give us beauty and a closeness to the Divine.

Links:

https://www.visituffizi.org/artworks/the-birth-of-venus-by-sandro-botticelli/

https://lovefromtuscany.com/art/botticelli-the-birth-of-venus/

 

 

 

The copyrights for these articles are owned by the Hellenic News of America. They may not be redistributed without the permission of the owner. The opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Hellenic News of America and its representatives.

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