Friday, November 5, 2010

Venus Rising - The Birth Of Venus

In the last 30 years most art historians have dated the painting, based on its stylistic qualities, to c. 1485–87.

The iconography of The Birth of Venus is very similar to a description of the event (or rather, a description of a sculpture of the event) in a poem by Angelo Poliziano, the Stanze per la giostra. The painting takes the motif of Venus Anadyomene, depicting the Greek myth of the birth of Aphrodite, virginal and fully grown, rising from the sea. She does this cyclically and thus is her virginity renewed. This motif was common in ancient Greece and survived over a thousand years intact so that it was easy for Boticelli to know of it in the 1480s.

There are several interpretations of this painting by Sandro Boticelli ranging from the Neoplatonic influence of the then current Rennaisance thinking, but as well in honor of the Medici patrons, or a painting produced for a wedding, an attempt by Botticelli to revive and fulfill an earlier painting of Venus rumored to have been ruined - a painting of Venus with the model being Alexander's mistress, Pankaspe, and the painter Apelles, and even Christian symbology of Eve before and after the fall. There is no one interpretation that clearly carries the day. There are no records which allow us to know what Boticelli intended for certain. You can read all this and more on Wiki's site for The Birth Of Venus. There is a related site, Venus Anadyomene.

For myself, I first saw a reproduction of this painting while learning mythology in grade school, well before eighth grade. This painting of The Birth of Venus (full grown from the sea as per one of her main origin myths) has been with me most of my life. You may notice that there is not much realism here: in the real world the shell would tip over, and Venus could not hold that pose very long either. While Boticelli could be and mostly was much more realistic in his work, in this case he may have been imitating early classical style on purpose, mimicking the pictures found on Greek vases, and creating a definite fantasy world in any case.

Venus Rising

Treating the woman
as if she rose from the sea
sometimes works better
than giving her gems
or silver or golden rings.
I should know because
she once rose above
my willing bed and draped me
with seafoam and love.

August 23, 2009 12:36 AM


  1. I am thinking about the form of your poems, Christopher. I know that once you described it. Would you mind doing that again?

    I love Venus Rising, or as my sister calls her, "Venus on the Half Shell." We saw it somewhere - can't remember which gallery right now.

  2. Karen, this is where the painting is said to be these days, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

    My form is syllable counting in the three line count of 5-7-5 and repeat, which if only three lines are involved is basic haiku. But I am not slavish and sometimes I will mix up the lines when the poem dictates. Also, the first form I used back in the beginning of this blog was one the Japanese have been said to use in the teahouses in improvisational exchanges between poets and that count goes 5-7-5, 7-7, 5-7-5.

  3. Om shrim Mahalakshmiye swaha.
    Om eim Saraswatye swaha.

    Gigi, the first for generosity and the second for creativity.

    Repeat 108 times each day for forty days. See how your life goes.

    Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu, is the counterpart of Venus.

    Saraswati, the consort of Brahma, is the goddess of knowledge, music and the creative arts.

  4. Thanks, Christopher. I knew the form had a symmetry, but I didn't think to do the count myself. It was the Uffizi, and the painting is huge! Printemps was there, too. I love them both.


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