Erotica

The Many Rebirths of Venus

Isla Phillips-Ewen 2 May 2023 min Read

Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus is iconic in Western art. Alongside the Mona Lisa, it is probably a contender for “most famous painting.” Unsurprisingly the renowned Renaissance picture has inspired reconfiguration, reproductions, and references in artworks ever since. So, let us explore some rebirths of Venus.

Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, c. 1484–1486, Uffizi, Florence, Italy.

The Renaissance of Venus by Walter Crane

Walter Crane, The Renaissance of Venus, 1877, Tate, London, England.

Walter Crane (1845 – 1915) was an English artist and book illustrator. During a honeymoon in Italy, he developed an interest in the Renaissance and later produced this work, using the title to specify Botticelli as the influence.

The Birth of Venus by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Birth of Venus (1879).jpg
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, The Birth of Venus, 1879, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825 – 1905 ) was a 19th-century French painter. His work tends to show interpretations of classical subjects and also forefronts the female nude.

Dream of Venus Pavilion by Salvador Dalí

Rebirths of Venus
Image of Salvador Dalí, Dream of Venus pavilion site for the 1939 World Fair.

At the 1939–40 New York World’s Fair Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí (1905 – 1989) envisioned this fantastical playhouse. Patrons would enter through a pair of female legs and then find themselves cavorting with topless mermaids, nymphs and even lobsters. Right above the entrance, of course, was our Botticelli’s Venus. The event organizers modified the plans and then in a protest, Dalí created a pamphlet called “Declaration of the Independence of the Imagination and the Rights of Man to His Own Madness.” Once again, our Venus was drawn at the top.

Films by Terry Gillian

Animation from Monty Python’s “And Now for Something Completely Different”, based on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, 1971, Columbia-Warner Distributors, United Kingdom.

The American-born British screenwriter, Terry Gilliam (b. 1940), who is famous for Monty Python, also had a view on Botticelli’s Venus; one of which involved the seventeen-year-old Uma Thurmann that brought that captivating gaze to life!

Entrance of Uma Thurman in the film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen by Terry Gilliam, 1988, Columbia Pictures, United Kingdom.

Camouflage Botticelli by Alain Jacquet

Alain Jacquet, Camouflage Botticelli (Birth of Venus), 1963-1964), Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, United States.

French artist, Alain Jacquet (1939-2008), who is often associated with the American Pop Art movement, humorously reimagines Venus and her shell as a shell gas pump.

Striptease by ORLAN

Rebirths of Venus
ORLAN, Striptease occasionnel à l’aide des draps du trousseau, 1975, photography series .

ORLAN (b. 1947) is a French artist and a pioneer of “carnal art”, a form of self-portraiture that uses body modification.

The first one of these striptease photos is quite posed. I am a kind of Madonna. Then, as I undress, I am using my body to express the history of art – by emulating The Birth of Venus by Botticelli. Finally, you are left with a pile of sheets on the floor, like a chrysalis from which you don’t know what will emerge.

The artist ORLAN, speaking for the guardian in 2016, article here.

The Birth of Venus by Vik Muniz

Rebirths of Venus
Vik Muniz, The Birth of Venus, After Botticelli, 2008, Digital C Print, 234 × 521 cm, Zemack Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, Israel.

Vik Muniz (b. 1961) is a Brazilian photographer known best for how he re-purposes everyday materials when creating recreations of canonical artworks.

Venus, after Botticelli, by Yin Xin

Yin Xin, Venus, after Botticelli, 2008, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England, UK.

Chinese artist Yin Xin (b. 1959) dyes the hair dark and metamorphoses the Botticelli’s into an Asian image, focusing just on the head and shoulders of Venus. The piece combines Western and Eastern elements to stress how the observer’s perception of artistic value is determined by cultural context.

Rebirth of Venus by David LaChapelle

Rebirth of Venus (2009), David LaChapelle. Rebirths of Venus
David LaChapelle, Rebirth of Venus, 2009, Creative Exchange Agency, New York, Steven Pranica / Studio LaChapelle © David LaChapelle.

David LaChapelle (b. 1963) is an American photographer, whose work regularly references art history and makes socio-political comments. What do you think his rebirth is saying about our sexualized modern society?

If you want to read more about The Birth of Venus then click here for three things you might not already know. To learn more about Venus herself why not check out our article on Venus in art?

Exhibition catalog from the 2016 exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London England.

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