The Many Rebirths of Venus
min Read2 May 2023
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.
The Renaissance of Venus by Walter Crane
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 ) 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
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
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!
Camouflage Botticelli by Alain Jacquet
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
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
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
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
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?
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